Swimming in salt water is wonderful; drinking it is not. Four hundred years ago, the first American settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, ran into troubles during their first five years because the fresh water they depended upon for drinking turned brackish in the summer. Suddenly, besides the plagues, angry Indians, and crop difficulties, they had to find new sources of fresh water inland. Libraries and publishers are facing a similar challenge as the hybrid world of print and online publications have changed the economic certainties that have kept both healthy.
The past five years in the information world have been full of revolutionary promise, but the new reality has not yet matched the promise of a universal library. Google Scholar promised universal access to scholarly information, yet its dynamic start in 2004 has not brought forth many new evolutionary changes since its release. In fact, the addition of Library Links using OpenURL support is the last newest major feature Scholar has seen. The NISO standard that enables seamless full-text access has shown its value.
For years, It’s been predicted that the Google Books project would revolutionize scholarship, and in some respects it has done so. But in seeking a balance between cornering Amazon’s market for searching inside books, respecting author’s rights, finding the rights holders of so-called orphan works, and solving metadata and scanning quality issues, its early promise is not yet fulfilled.