France pushes for European books online

While Google has announced versions of its online book service in 6 EU languages other than English, France is speeding up its rival venture for a European Digital Library. 

John Lewis Needham, in charge of Google Print‘s French branch, told the Libération newspaper:  “From today on, we will be featuring six more languages: Besides French, these will be GermanItalianDutchSpanish and Portuguese. Within the last six months, we have multiplied our contacts with large and small printing houses in France. We have already signed contracts with some of them, and we are in prepparatory talks with others.”

Meanwhile, at its second meeting on 30 August 2005, the European Digital Library’s Advisory Council set up a number of working groups, which are to deal with issues such as financing, editorial choices, private sector co-operation and choice of a search engine. 

“We hope to be able to proceed quickly to taking decisions, based on the findings”, Culture Minister Pierre Donnedieu said. An interim report is to be presented to President Jacques Chirac, who takes personal interest in the project, by the end of the year. 

While the Library’s Advisory Council is composed of Frenchmen only, France is seeking co-operation from its European partners and from EU institutions, Mr. Donnedieu said. The minister also hopes for co-financing of the project by the EU. 

The Library project was announced by Mr. Chirac in May, together with the project of a French-German search engine, as “an essential asset for Europe in order to seize its place in the future geography of knowledge”. 

So far, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Spain and Italy have reacted positively to France’s invitation to get involved in the project. On several occasions, France has pointed to the growing importance of digital content and to the risk of this domain being dominated by US-based enterprises, such as Google’s Google print service.

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