Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Google Scholar Flunking Relationships 101?

In any channel distribution relationship, maintaining some control over where and how one's content is sold (or otherwise made available) is important to the content owner. Herein lies the problem with Google Scholar. Many publishers were surprised by the recent soft launch of Google Scholar, since they were not consulted about their involvement in the program. Rather, in some cases, channel partners took it upon themselves to open this new point of entry without obtaining official permission from the original publishers. In other cases, the articles crawled by Google are directly available to nonsubscribers on publisher sites.

Given the reach of Google, most publishers could be convinced to work with the search engine giant on projects that would increase the discoverability of their for-fee or behing-the-firewall content, provided that the publishers maintain a good understanding of the new channel and receive sufficient information about the usage of the channel. In fact, Google has been collaborating with CrossRef on an initiative called CrossRef Search, which is done with the involvement of nine scholarly publishers and is running a pilot program in 2004. Apparently, the Google Scholar team didn't communicate its plans to the CrossRef Search group.

It may have been easier for Google to side-step the process of contacting the original publishers in order to get the product out quickly in a "beta test" environment, but Google may have opened a can of worms by creating distrust among the STM publishing community regarding Google's intentions to respect content owners. Could it be this underlying distrust that is the real driver behind the recent ACS suit against Google?
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