Oct/Nov 2006 Nonfiction

Google is Digitizing

by Tim Einstein

Photo by Jim Gourley

Google is digitizing the library books of several major university libraries and of The New York City Library. Media pundits are puzzling over the impact this will have on copyrights. Will the availability of this massive volume of massive volumes discourage the masses from buying the volumes? Will it decrease the market value of actual printed books? What's to become of hard bound hard copy? Will the town library become paperless? Will the town library become, like the town itself, virtually irrelevant? Will this enable city people to discuss The Davinci Code not only without having read it, but now, without having bought it? Will the freedom of intellectual property cause intellectual poverty? What will Patrick Buchanan and the like use for stage props without the gravitas of hard bound books?

Think of the lost revenue in emerging markets. Think of the new Chinese middle class whose pirates will no longer be able to sell knock-off copies of Michael Creighton, Donald Trump and Danielle Steele. The destabilization of the new global center of gravity. The catastrophe of instant free access by a billion and a half people to romance novels, books for dummies and Doctor Phil. Googling now threatens the very cornerstone of Western Culture and the culture of westerns. Would Louis L'Amour have written Hondo if he had not been able to expect a return on his investment? Intellectual acuity will become so cheap and easy we won't need Latin or Greek anymore. The man on the street will become well read and more sophisticated. Everyone will have access. What will happen to “ka-ching”? Katie Couric will stop writing children's books. How will aging celebrities self actualize if “writing” becomes an ordinary exercise? We will become a nation of bloggers. William F. Buckley Jr. will have to confront the pathos of his normalcy, the banality of his fixation on Yale and the complete and utter failure of his pretension to the class of substantial people who are responsible for things as they are and authorized to shape things to come. Will his plumber become somehow capable of embarrassing him?

If you Google Socrates, will you hear a question? Will The Rock go from headlock to hemlock? What is Harry Potter really scared of? Will he wake up to interpreted dreams, electronic interactivity and debit cards? Will The Lord of the Rings morph into Lord of the Flies, cease being a viable market engine and return to exclusivity and elitism? Will the British overcome their mass fetish with billionaire Royals and their royalties? Will Toad Hall discover Windows XP? Will the man in the street begin to anticipate Jay Leno's buffoon and meet it with compound sentences?

Pop culture and consumerism, building blocks of the national economy, will erode as the common man develops a discerning taste and a critical eye. The inside stuff and the low down would leak out. Ordinary people may begin to aspire to things that are too good for them. Beauty and Truth might get out. Karma might, after all these years, come around. The cost of college would plummet as thousands of students read books from the same famous library; the same books at the same time.

The blinding avalanche of the availability of the written word will cause job loss across the country turning the audiences of Cher, Heavy D and The Blue Collar Comedy Tour to the money losing adventurism of great literature, profound philosophy and scientific inquiries. We will not have to wait weeks for our local library's only copy of Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy because someone who lives on Carriage Court or Surrey Way will not return it.

Not if Tom Clancy has anything to say about it. Imagine Oprah Winfrey, all breathless with anticipation for the latest from Deepak Chopra. When she finds out that, not only is his book online, and there is no serious revenue stream for her to get a piece of, she may begin eating again. Then, her face will open up like a bag of popcorn as she realizes that, O O, magazines will be next.

No child will not only not be left behind, she will be out in front. Children are always the first to know, like canaries in the mine, that we don't need what we don't read. What are they going to do with the world at the tip of a mouse? Will they realize how important these advanced engines are to them as they surf life's realities and get in touch with democracy? Will they figure the one-click-one-vote policy? They will be more capable of finding work as their elders become more capable of losing it. How long will it take them to get it? How long will it take them to get us? Milliseconds. Hop scotching the hyped up servers to duck the muck of Paris and Donald. Block the blare and the glare. Not bother with the redacted, remanded and renditioned. Most important: will they ever get the fact that they are their own customers?


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