A recent press release from ProQuest announced that they have embarked on a project with Google to digitize hundreds of millions of newspaper pages. Amazing, right? The project is one of the first of its kind and certainly the first with this sort of scope. As such, they will likely be developing models from which we can learn a lot about how to fund a project like this and manage the copyright issues. Regarding the former, ProQuest senior vice-president of publishing Rod Gauvin said:
The demand for digitized newspaper archives is clearly there. The problem is it that, until now, finding a workable economic model for libraries and publishers has been challenging ... This model overcomes that hurdle, unlocking a wealth of content for libraries and internet users with unique research needs.
What's not mentioned in the press release, but is noted in a recent Library Journal post, is that the "workable model" of which he speaks involves Google picking up the tab on the digital conversion work -- in exchange for placing advertising next to the newspaper page images. Hundreds of millions of newspaper pages. I'm certainly all for creative funding strategies, but I'm sure more than a few librarian eyebrows will be raised by this news. LJ also reportst that ProQuest is considering a "Premium Content" strategy where users will pay extra for certain content like The New York Times. They might want to consider asking the NYTimes about their NYTimesSelect project before they start premium-atizing content.
Although the project is already underway, ProQuest and Google have been frank about not being entirely sure about how they will handle content that neither ProQuest nor Google have permission to digitize and release. It'll be interesting to see what happens when they run up against the end of the papers they have rights to and have to begin negotiating the murky water in which the Books Project is still swimming/treading.