Within days of Google’s 2004 launch of their ambitious book scanning plan, cynical librarians (myself included) wondered how long it would take for Google to market their new toy to libraries.
As it turns out, a long time. It’s now 2011, and we’re still waiting for Google to come knocking offering content for money. Is this strategic, or perhaps related to their epic struggles with rightsholders? Likely the latter.
This occurred to me today when I recalled–for the 300th time–that Google offers no API for Scholar. While noodling around for information on the current state of that issue, I found a comment on Jonathan Rochkind’s blog that made something go bing in my head. Commenter Marty pointed out that Google relies on publisher largesse to get at the article metadata, and that many of these publishers have an interest in driving use toward their own tools (e.g.- SciVerse). It would follow that Google faces many publisher-imposed restrictions about what they can do with Scholar, which would explain the lack of development and an API.
That leads to a question. Money makes everything move, so would we be willing to pay for this API? Google could make the publishers happy by paying them for access to their data, and we could pay Google for use of their API. It would be like licensing a database, except I don’t want a crappy interface and a sales call, I want an API so that my library can access the data from our own interface and manipulate it to fit our needs. In a nutshell, we’d be paying Google to aggregate publisher data, something we currently do in a variety of semi-satisfactory ways.
Is this crazy talk?