Doesn’t seem to take a whole lot these days to get French knickers in a twist, and Google seems to have accomplished it big time. Rather than let Google--an American company--digitize the works held by France’s National Library, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said France would provide $1.1 billon for the job --France will go this one alone, thank you very much. According to Sarkozy: “We won’t let ourselves be stripped of our heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is.”
France’s effort comes on the heels of some failed attempts to offset the dominance of Google on the Internet in Europe. France and Germany planned a join-effort multimedia search engine, “Quaero” (Latin for “I seek”), but that’s been abandoned. (Making a search engine is tougher than it looks--ask Microsoft.) And France has been unsuccessful in prodding the European Union to undertake its own book digitization project.
Cash-strapped France plans to borrow the money to digitize the 14 million books and millions of other documents held by the National Library. The European Union isn’t too keen on France’s venture, as France’s debt and deficits are now at record levels. But, this sort of irrational, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants bravado served France well at the outbreak of World War II. It should serve them just as well now.
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