Pros and cons of Google book scan project

The blogs to which I subscribe were dominated in the past week by the news of Google's out-of-court-settlement with the Authors Guild and the AAP. These last two organizations had bought separate lawsuits against Google’s Library Search program that scans books from libraries, including books under copyright. The settlement includes a $125 million payment by Google plus the establishment of a new licensing system (via Publishers Weekly). Google's own official announcements are here, and in more detail, here.

Here is one comment: "Today is a sad day for copyright and publishing as we know it", from Martyn Daniels of the UK Booksellers' Association, in a post with the title 'The great book bank robbery'.  Lots of reasons are given in the post, but perhaps a starker one are the implications in Charlotte Higgins's recent Guardian culture blog post about why Borders' and Waterstone's sap her of the will to live. (The logic of the post has some obvious flaws, eg complaining that CDs are out of stock, but the comment discussion is pertinent.) Yes, we are all turning to the internet, to order books and, now it seems even more likely, not to bother with that and just to read them. Google, on the other hand, says that the agreement "will give readers digital access to millions of in-copyright books; second, it will create a new market for authors and publishers to sell their works; and third, it will further the efforts of our library partners to preserve and maintain their collections while making books more accessible to students, readers and academic researchers."

Mac Slocum is rounding-up blog reactions from publishers, librarians, other interested parties and just "the interested" at O'Reilly Radar; links to related stories in the newspapers and magazines are also provided in that post.

Last word for the moment to Sara Lloyd of Pan Macmillan, writing on The Digitalist blog: "Whilst it has carefully been building up the walls around its walled garden, Kindle, Google has quietly and cunningly been working away on a plan which makes it the gateway and the marketplace for all digitised books, and without the need for a dedicated device. It must be good for there to be a strong competitor to Amazon, mustn’t it? And it adds an interesting and powerfully pro-online access dimension to the debate about whether the future of digital reading lies in digital downloads to buy and ‘own’ or online access through a subscription." Oh, and by the way, using the code OPRAHWINFREY you can now get $50 off the price of the Kindle, apparently – a case of acting quickly before it becomes redundant?

One thought on “Pros and cons of Google book scan project

  1. Re Charlotte Higgins’s timely moan about bookstore chains, Waterstone’s and Borders are like battery-chicken barns for books: you always have the sense remaindering and pulping are only a few days away. More, the ignorance of some staff is astounding. Recently I popped into the Bloomsbury Waterstone’s and the woman at the information desk had never heard of The Thousand and One/Arabian Nights. Fortunately, wonderful bookstores like Daunt Books are still around, along with good secondhand ones such as Skoob (part of the Brunswick Centre near Russell Square). The selection at the latter isn’t massive but it’s choice; I just picked up Michael Holroyd’s first vol on Shaw and an excellent biog of Christina Stead there for a fiver each.

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