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Benefiting from the global digital commons

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The developing cultural and financial economies of the South Pacific, while lagging behind developed nations in terms of information infrastructure, are in a unique position to take advantage of many of the fruits of the information age. One can see this taking place in numerous forms - mobile phone adoption out paces copper telephony across the region, satellite television is common where cable TV delivery is almost non-existent, and digital content delivered via the Internet has gone some way to narrowing the information gap between the Pacific region and the developed world.

One area where this final point has a great deal of promise is within the domain of libraries. Generally speaking, the geography of the South Pacific region has always been a significant barrier to the development of library collections in the region. It is a fact that the total cost of acquiring a book in the South Pacific is significantly higher than in countries with local publishing industries and markets. However, as more and more digital content becomes available online, the total cost of delivering that content to library users in the South Pacific becomes closer to the total cost of delivery to users of a North American, European, or Australian library.

The same is also true for innovative online library services. One fascinating and occasionally controversial (see here and here) example is Google Books. Through digitizing the collections of a number of major libraries in the US and Europe (Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford Universities, the University of Michigan, and the New York Public Library), Google Books has provided no-cost full-text searching and a visual peak inside of millions of books to Internet users around the world.

Recently, Google Books added a new feature that explicitly ties the service back to libraries in 30 countries - Find Libraries.

Each result includes a "Find Libraries" link to help readers find libraries that hold the book -- ideally a library nearby, or if need be, a library far away. For example, after reading Martin Gardner's book Fads and Fallacies, I wanted to follow up on Immanuel Velikovsky's books about scientific explanations for biblical miracles. Clicking on the "Find Libraries" link for Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision, I found that a copy was available in the University of Sao Paulo library.
[Bruno Fonseca, Finding the wealth in your library (and everyone else's), Official Google Blog, 24/8/2006]
Shortly thereafter, John Blyberg of the Ann Arbor District Library posed the question, if Google Books can incorporate library holdings into their search results, "They [Google Books] should have no problem with me incorporating Google Books into our hit-list. Right?" John reports that Google did briefly object, but ultimately allowed him to roll Google Book page previews into his catalogue results at Try a keyword search for "frommers pacific" and click on the Look inside this book @ Google Books to see this in action.

The combined public and private sectors of the entire South Pacific could not put together an endeavor as colossal as Google Books, yet the beauty of the information age is that we in the Pacific get to be full beneficiaries of Google's investment.


laminar_flow said...

Right, Where to start?

Vijah Singh's book "Speaking Out" or Stiveni Rabuka's "No Other Way"?

Will U.S.P follow suit in digitizing their assets, especially in the Pacific collection?

thrashor said...

Roughly three years ago USP initiated a digitization project that initially targets public domain material and material for which rights can easily be obtained in the Pacific Collection. The fruits of these efforts have yet to be made publically available.

Do you recommend reading Singh and Rabuka's books?

laminar_flow said...

Yes. Both Singh and Raubuka give different angles on the Political situation in Fiji.

I wonder if you guys in U.S.P could approach the Fiji National Archives with a digitization proposal.

jeshu said...


im surprised to see a blog about fiji as it is a very small place and very undeveloped technically.

as a student living in fiji...i belive that really the young ppl dont care about the political status of in to us all politicians are liers!!!

but it dose affect our everyday lives.

but fiji is a great place to live in.with some problems too.....but thats everywhere!!!