Mark Gimein at Slate takes on “some of the myths that have been propagated about Book Search” in In Defense of Google Books. It is a decidedly one-sided article, but probably a needed counter-balance to the slew of anti Google Books pieces out there (see this one, this one, and this one).
Now, I’m a pretty big fan of Google Books (see here, here, and here), and have defended them from time to time, but I think Gimein is mistaken if he really thinks Google is the answer to his rhetorical question: “In the past decade, who has done more for public access to knowledge. Harvard? Google?”
No doubt, providing full-text searching over a corpus of millions of books is a boon to public access to knowledge. But Google did not do this alone — the project absolutely relies on the cumulative work that participating libraries have done in selecting and preserving their collections. Google’s contribution to public knowledge is based on the content that libraries like Harvard (and Stanford) have acquired and cared for over many, many years.
Even if you think that the Google Books project is the greatest boon to public knowledge in the last decade, credit would still have to be shared with the participating libraries who provided the content.