French deal with Google raises eyebrows

Thu 20 August 2009 09:19, Bas van den Beld

French deal with Google raises eyebrows

"Google has won" was the headline of the French newspaper La Tribune. And with that it responded to the deal between Google and the French Librarians Association "Bibliotheque National de France" (BNF).

Google and Bibliotheque agreed on a deal in which Google will be digitalising and indexing 13 million booktitles in the French Library in Paris. A lot of French are, to say the least, not amused.

The deal is controversial because for the last years former president of the Bibliotheque, Jean-Noel Jeaneney has been fighting Google trying to stop the "American imperialism". Supported by then French president Chirac they tried setting up a European project, Europeana, which never was a big success.

The fact that the deal now is made is purely a financial decision according to director of collections Denis Bruckmann. The libary needed €80 million "just for the works from 1870 to 1940" Bruckmann said, while the French government only wanted to invest 5 million euros a year. “We will not stop our own digitising programme, but if Google can enable us to go faster and farther, then why not?

A lot of French are not happy with the deal. The love  / hate relationship between France and the US is one of the reasons why some reactions have been harsh. French writer Pierre Assouline was clear on his point of view: “It will thus have taken four years for the library to pass from resistance to collaboration.”

Another reason for some of the negative responses is the fact that France has a culture in which books and bookstores still play a vital role. There are strict rules when it comes to pricing and publishing. Publishers therefore still want to try and stop the deal. The second largest publisher in France, Editis, already called for a united front to block Google and Amazon. To be continued?

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