Blogs > Cliopatria > Million Google Scholars

Sep 6, 2006 9:37 am

Million Google Scholars

A few weeks ago, Google announced that one can download pdfs of public domain books from Google Print. Today comes another announcement about the availability of newspapers archives from 1700 to the present. Most of the stuff that I looked for in the archives was behind subscription walls but no matter.

Academics have always had these archives and the search tools that allow us to do our trade. However, these Google tools are really a revolution outside the academy. It allows easy public access to the archive [the millions book scanned - and now, the million newspapers scanned].

What that means for us? We oughta think about it.

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Jonathan Dresner - 9/6/2006

I did a couple of searches, and everything -- no exceptions -- came up behind paywalls of some kind or another.

Now most (I think) institutions provide some research travel money for scholars; the trick is going to be convincing either libraries or research grant boards to provide funds for access.

Similarly, without free access through library portals, etc., students will be able to make very little use of this.

There will also be significant questions about use and permissions to be sorted out, I imagine.....

Jonathan Rees - 9/6/2006


Thank you for posting this. I immediately got on and found a court case from 1941 which will almost certainly save me a trip to Boulder to find a paper copy.

More importantly, thank you Google for doing this. Has anybody ever read Nicholson Baker's Doublefold? He not only documents the atrocious abuse of newspaper text by research libraries that should know better, he explains the problems that even microfilm won't solve. For example, what if the paper has a morning and afternoon edition? Few microfilm companies will scan both.

The problem is with the charges. How many services will your library have to subscribe to if you have an ambitious research agenda? If your library is poor, like mine, how much are you willing to pay out of your own pocket?

Nevertheless, I say forget about your students for once and enjoy this for yourself.


PS I'm only half kidding about that last part.

Rebecca Anne Goetz - 9/6/2006

I've been thinking about that a lot myself, especially since I've assigned a research paper this semester. To combat "internet research" I'm making the students do an annotated bibliography that includes books, periodicals, and reference materials, and I'm haing a library session to teach them how to use this stuff. Maybe at the end of the semester I'll have something to report about how well it went.

I'm not dismissing the internet or digital resources as research materials though. But I agree we need to a) think about what this means for us, and b) the historical profession as a whole ought to start devising strategies for using these materials honestly and responsibly.

S J - 9/6/2006

What's a card catalogue?

I agree with both of your points and I would be interested to hear about how the nature of student research, specifically undergraduate research has changed over the last 20-30 years. I tell my parents all the time that I can't imagine what going to school was like before the internet - much less graduate school. *Gasp*

David H. Noon - 9/6/2006

Agreed. I'm not making a fair analogy here, but look what happened when Congress authorized the release of 40,000 boxes of unauthenticated, untranslated documents seized during the war. Every fusion jazz musician or corporate lawyer masquerading as a journalist quickly stuffed their blogs with PROOF that Saddam held weapons of mass destruction or maintained links with al-Qaeda.

The availability of this stuff in the public sphere is great -- however, I feel somewhat ambivalent about the possibility that my students will now have one more reason to look no farther than Google for their research.

Maybe I'm the sort of person who would have grumbled 15 years ago about how no one knew how to use a card catalogue any more, but . . .

Oscar Chamberlain - 9/6/2006

"What that means for us?"

First, it means that we need to teach about how primary sources can mislead the honest and be misused by the dishonest.