Google Book Effort Draws French Ire

The National Library of France is not happy with Google's effort to scan and integrate millions of books into its Web search. Jean-Noel Jeanneney, President of the library, wrote in an editorial that he is concerned Google's initiative to digitalize volumes at five leading libraries will reflect a unipolar worldview dominated by the English language and American culture.

Jeanneney has designed a parallel program as a counterweight against the perceived political and cultural significance of Google's project.

However his words may appear, Jeanneney insists that his remarks were not intended to be anti-American, and went out of his way to commend the short-term effects of Google's work as a "Messianic dream" that would "profit" under-privileged populations.

In the long run, the librarian-in-chief cautioned against the domination of America for generations to come and its potential to skew thought without reflecting the diversity of civilizations.

In the subsequent weeks after the editorial was published, Jeanneney has toned down his statements made in the French media, but remains the leading proponent for mobilizing funding for the digitalization of European libraries. A Google spokesperson told BetaNews that Jeanneney's remarks were a reflection of his fundraising efforts.

Google announced in December that it had partnered with the New York public library and university libraries at Stanford, the University of Michigan, Harvard and Oxford. Collections that are public domain -- without copyrights -- will be among the first to be digitalized and brought online.

A Google spokesperson said the company was surprised by Jeanneney's remarks, noting, "This is a first step for us; we can't do everything at once."

"It is our intention to be as inclusive as possible, respect the diversity of cultures and we will work with any library and are interested in talking to institutions with great works like BNF (Bibliotheque nationale de France)," the spokesperson added. "However, we cannot guarantee that it will spread to France."

BetaNews could not reach Jeanneney for comment by press time.

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