Today I drove up past Cambridge on some domestic business. Being in the area, I wondered whether to pop in to Cambridge University library. I didn’t, tho. I didn’t feel the need.
Last night I downloaded 10 volumes of Angelo Mai’s 1825 extravaganza, Scriptorum Veterum Collectio Nova, in which he published the finds he made in the Vatican library at the time. Each was about 1,000 pages.
Volume 1 includes the first publication of several works by Eusebius, including the Quaestiones ad Stephanum / Marinum. About 3 years back I went to Cambridge, and bought photocopies of those pages from that volume. They charged me 25c per page — not cheap but by no means exorbitant in the crazy world of academic libraries. I probably got 100 pages, and paid $25 for them; and was very glad to get them, and to be allowed to get a photocopy. I had to wait a week for them to be done.
And now? I hardly care about those books, because I can get the whole 1,000 pages from Google Books for nothing. It hardly matters what CUL charge for photocopies of those books now; no-one will pay it. How long before they realise that storing the physical books is a waste of time?
It has become acceptable among IT journalists to sneer at Google. But let us not forget the many wonderful things we owe to the owners of that company, and their vision, and the free access to vast amounts of information and services. Those living in unfree countries are robbed at every turn by petty officialdom, under the guise of laws and regulations, which must be obeyed, and hoops must be jumped through and fees paid — ahhhh, fees! — and in the process nothing happens and everyone is impoverished. For even the most enthusiastic will be ground down when he has to ask permission of the lazy and indifferent to do anything.
Google has changed the world, and changed it markedly for the better. I for one am grateful.