Google Library: a blessing or a curse for education?

by Emily

Google wants to create the world's largest library - online. The Internet gargantuan wants to expand its 'Google Books' programme to cover almost all books currently in or out of print, essentially outstripping even the UK copyright libraries, such as the British and Bodleian libraries, in quantity of content. The suggested format includes a remuneration scheme for authors whose work remains in copyright, but does open up a whole can of worms regarding fair use and accessibility.

On the plus side, the project would provide a massive educational resource, the like of which has never been seen before. It will make key texts available to pretty much everyone in the developed world. Clearly this tool can be an unprecedented help to students and tutors alike, providing a one-stop literary research tool, with contents comparable to the most trusted real-world sources.

However, such a tool does present a thorny copyright issue, with many authors feeling they are being asked to sign away their work for a pittance; this includes academic papers as well as fiction. It could also encourage a lazy approach to research, chaining students even more strongly to their computers. In creating a resource on this scale, Google will effectively capture the market, possibly reducing the number of unbiased sources available in the long term and essentially creating a weaker research environment.

What do you think of Google's plans? From a tuition point of view, will this development be a fantastic new resource for you and your students, or more of a poisoned chalice?