Geoffrey Nunberg Misunderstands Monopoly

"Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil" (Flickr Creative Commons)

"Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil" (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published another unhelpful piece about Google.  Geoffrey Nunberg’s “Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars” is not about a billion dollar corporation seeking monopolistic control over books while claiming exoterically that it will not “do evil.”  You can find this as the first item of “Investor Relations,” and the page title ought to be a clue to Mr. Nunberg and others about what is, and will be, happening.  The problem is that Mr. Nunberg does not give a damn.  He is not concerned with the economic issues.  Any monopoly controlling books will do for him: “Of course, 50 or 100 years from now control of the collection may pass from Google to somebody else—Elsevier, Unesco, Wal-Mart,” he writes.  Mr. Nunberg wants us to worry instead about accurate metadata.  How is this different from serving as a consultant for monitoring the proper temperature of the pitchforks in hell, while missing the point that you are a consultant in hell?

Remember the Google that cooperates in censorship?  Remember the Google that participates in U.S. government surveillance?  Apparently, those matters are not “disasters” for scholars in the way that inaccurate metadata are.


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