Library Journal has reported on a new deal between the University of Michigan and Amazon where hundreds of thousands of digitized public domain books will be made available through their print on demand business.
Sounds good. Hopefully UMich is getting tons of moolah for the deal. And it's good to see efforts made to support the interests of the long tail, those people looking for works otherwise out of print and therefore much more difficult to obtain. I only have two problems with this. One, I see nowhere in this article any mention of any efforts to make this huge pile of etexts available to or through other academic or public libraries. They said that a lot of them are already available through UMich's catalog and Google Book Search but that limits the potential discoverers to those at UMich (and maybe a bit of the outlying area) and those who actually know that Google Book Search exists (I'm always amazed that people don't even try there). Make it easy to link through or host the content elsewhere and make those works supposedly owned by the public available for use by the public.
My other problem is in regards to Roy Tennant's comment that this is a sign that print is not dead. Well, no it's not but this doesn't suggest that it's going to live any longer than we thought before. Print's got it's place but speaking for myself, if it's a choice between paying for something in print and getting it for free online, I'm taking the latter. Even if the fee is nominal. But I'm a geek, so... All this will do it delay print's demise for certain otherwise doomed genres because the majority of those searching for books will pay Amazon not knowing that it could be free somewhere else.
[ From Michigan Deal A New Twist on Access to Scanned Book Content at Library Journal 7/23/2009 ]