Advocates: Google Books can bridge digital divide

Much of the discussion around Google’s proposed book settlement has centered on copyright law and competition, but advocates for greater access to books online finally had their say as well, CNET reports. A coalition of civil-rights and disability groups in favor of Google’s book-scanning project held a press conference on Sept. 3 to marshal support for improving access to knowledge, the key benefit of Google’s deal with authors and publishers to create a new kind of digital library. They fear that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain digital access to knowledge previously stored in libraries at expensive universities or rich communities could be hampered by the opposition to the settlement from some authors and privacy advocates. Those opposing the settlement have perhaps protested most loudly over the past six months, but Google put together a group of organizations who stand to make huge gains if the settlement is approved. Blind people, for example, have access to a special library run by the Library of Congress that converts print books into formats readable by the visually impaired, but that library–in existence since 1931–only has 70,000 texts, said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind. If the settlement is approved in October, it will give "print-disabled" people "access to more books than we have ever had in human history," he said…

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