It’s easy to write off books as yesterday’s medium. They’re not searchable! They take up too much space! It’s dead tree media!
But books are such a boon to civilisation that Google kicked off “Project Ocean” in 2004. It came to be known as Google Books, an effort to digitize and catalogue every book and make them freely available online.
It’s a polarising idea. Researchers and academics love the promise of instant access to any printed material they could ever want, but copyright holders and the Authors Guild were far from pleased. Not only were they not being compensated for their work, but Google launched the project without so much as seeking permission from them.
One of Google’s core missions is to organise the world’s information, and with books being the valuable storehouses of data that they have been for millennia, it’s only obvious that the company would seek to establish a universal library of the world’s knowledge.
A great documentary titled “Google and the World Brain” takes a detailed look at this ambitious undertaking, interviewing people who love it and loathe it alike. For all the simplicity of ink and paper, the movie shows us that the complicated rabbit hole of intellectual property law runs far deeper than you’d think.