Heidelberg! A German controversy on books and culture in the digital age.

Is our culture threatened by Google and by the Open Access movement for freely accessible science publications? Are Google’s library scanning programs and the so called “Google settlement” with the US Author’s Guild a menace against the freedom of expression in Germany?

Such is the opinion expressed by the “Heidelberg Appell” made public by Roland Reuss in March 2009 and since then endorsed by 2600 publishing and literary people throughout Germany, and heavily promoted notably by most of the German mainstream media.

I rather guess that the ensuing debate is more of a – pretty belated – realization for many that things around the book, publishing and the readers are in fact changing dramatically, even if many tried hard to ignore it so far. This resulted in a memorable re-emergence of the old pattern of controversy confronting modernists and traditionalists.

I tried to sort out arguments and perspectives in two lengthy articles in German (initially published by Perlentaucher) and in English (initially published by Publishing Perspectives and documented at my own website as well.

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