Just about a month ago (October 3), a consortium of businesses, non-profits and universities announced a new initiative: the Open Content Alliance (OCA). The purpose of the OCA, according to Internetnews.com, is: "to digitize hundreds of thousands of books and technical papers and make them available on the Web for almost universal access."
Huh? Where have I heard that before? Oh, yes! The Google Print Library Project.
Interestingly enough, Google is not listed among the members of OCA. Internetnews reports the founding members are: The Internet Archive, Yahoo! Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., the European Archive, HP Labs, the National Archives (UK), O'Reilly Media Inc., Prelinger Archives, the University of California, and the University of Toronto." During their kick-off event in San Francisco on October 27, fourteen new members were also announced. Included among the newbies was Microsoft.
Microsoft? That bastion of the closed source, proprietary approach joining an open source digitization project? Does anyone hear Chicken Little yelling, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"?
The BBC quoted Doron Weber from the Sloan Foundation as saying: "It's interesting to see everyone jumping on the digital library bandwagon . . . Google's push has galvanized everyone else."
At the October 27 meeting, Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive explained the goals of the newly formed OCA. According to Internetnews, the "plan is to scan as many out-of-print books as possible, then work up the chain toward books under copyright."
Less than a week later, Google announced that they would concentrate the efforts of Google Print on books not under copyright to begin with. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Internet insiders have long said that Microsoft regards Google as one of its biggest threats. Now Microsoft has thrown its weight toward a new project that is essentially doing the same thing that Google has been working on. Meanwhile, Google is fending off at least two lawsuits from authors and publishers since it announced its Library Project almost a year ago.