Several major research libraries have refused offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are unhappy with restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.
Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services. Microsoft places a similar restriction on the books it converts to electronic form.
The Open Content Alliance, by contrast, is making the material available to any search service, said the report. It costs the Open Content Alliance as much as 30 U.S. dollars to scan each book, a cost shared by the group's members and benefactors.
However, many major libraries have accepted Google's offer -- including the New York Public Library and libraries at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. Google expects to scan 15 million books from those collections over the next decade.
But the resistance from some libraries suggests that many in the academic and nonprofit world are intent on pursuing a vision of the Web as a global repository of knowledge that is free of business interests or restrictions.
Some libraries and researchers worry that should any one company, such as Google, come to dominate the digital conversion of these works, it could exploit that dominance for commercial gain.