Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Digitalisation of books - comparing France and the UK

Already yesterday I thought of writing a post about it, while I was discovering the poverty, I would nearly say the misery if the word had been appropriate, of digitilased books in the UK accessible free of charge. I wanted an old book from 1824 printed in London about criminal libel; so one can guess that copyrights should not be an issue. Well, where do I find it online? Certainly not on the British Library website; it is appallingly bad as far as digital collections are concerned. Despite the hype about the Online Gallery, there is absolutely nothing. Compared to its English counterpart, the French Bibliothèque Nationale de France is light years ahead of the British Library. On its Gallica website, also accessible in English and Spanish, there are hundred of thousands of old books (mainly pre-1930s) having been scanned with often a text search available. In my fields, I have all the old books that I need and still use; I even have the first issues of the main French law journal on criminal law. And the RSS feed allows me to keep up to date with the new books added to the digital collection, all that free of charge to the user.
So one can criticise the French Government for sponsoring the programme, but frankly, I would prefer my taxes to go into the programme than leaving it to private companies to do the job. Why? because the 1824 I mentioned earlier was scanned by Google and available at Google books, but frankly, half of the information displayed on the search result is inaccurate, the references not corresponding to what has actually been digitalised.

"Sarkozy To Throw Another Billion At Digitizing Books" (TechDirt, 17 December 2009)

"Now France Fines Google For Scanning French Books" (TechDirt, 18 December 2009)

and the European policy in the same lines as France's (14 october 2009/25 November 2009)

Now, on Jan 12, having received a newsletter from a French website, I post the following. It is about an article from Le Monde (The newspaper in France) dating from 19 december 2009. It confirms what I have described about the poor quality of the digitalisation of books. One author said his book was digitalised without his authorisation and Google used non corrected/checked proofs of the book. In other words, it was worthless. In the article, is also mentioned the work of the BNF and its willingness to digitalise but with quality and with compliance with the copyrights law. "

Livre numérique : la justice française donne raison aux éditeurs face à Google (Le Monde, 19 Dec 2009)

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