Saturday, April 4, 2009

Digital Disruption

Two articles in the NYT this morning, both of which are completely aggravating.

First, Times Co. Said to Consider Closing Boston Globe.
The New York Times Company has threatened to close The Boston Globe unless labor unions agree to concessions like pay cuts and the cessation of pension contributions, according to a person briefed on the talks.
Seriously, "a person"? I thought the Times has a no-anonymous source rule.

Sounds like it's just posturing, but that they would make such a threat shows the lows to which the newspaper industry has sunk (if only they understood it's not about newspaper anymore, but news is still important).

The Times bought the Globe in 1993 for its color presses, and proceeded to make the Globe a lousy paper (imho) so it wouldn't compete with the Times. Well, that's my take on it anyway, I used to enjoy reading the Sunday Globe but in the last several years it has been terrible. There used to be a great Op/Ed section, but no more.

The Globe seemed to do a semi-decent job with, but, not perfect.

The second article, Google’s Plan for Out-of-Print Books Is Challenged, is far more annoying. 

Books that are out of print and will never be printed again and that are orphaned, are perhaps a problem. (This is also a problem in the software world.) Perhaps they are so bad they are unreadable, useless. But they are still part of the greater meta-library of ideas of humanity. Copyright still applies to them, but for some reason I never totally understand the rights holder is essentially unknown. If the author died.... Then what? Does the law give us guidance? If the publisher shut down... Then what? Seems weird. Typically authors maintain copyright over books. Finding heirs of the deceased can be tricky.

But Google is trying to put a bunch of these books online. Typical furor ensued. 

If Google doesn't do it, who will? That is my question. And complaining about high prices for database access, or, more accurately, prices that may become high, seems odd since librarians should be all up in arms about the ridiculous prices that they have to pay for journal articles (some are).

Addendum: I've said before that the NYT's best work is in their blogs, and this expansion of the Google and orphan works piece is no exception. Much better, more points of view, and many links. I find it somewhat amusing that the Harvard libraries director (private university) is against the agreement, while the Michigan library dean (public university) is for it. Most University of Michigan libraries are open to the public to some extent (except the law library always caused trouble in that department).