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Monday, October 24, 2005

Chapter Forty-Six, in which Google is praised

Who wants to sell more books? One of the best things to happen for booksellers--but more importantly, for readers--is the Google Print Project.

Why the fierce opposition? Last week the Association of American Publishers (AAP) announced a suit against Google in an effort to stop what they are calling copyright infringement. This action, claims AAP President and former Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, was forced upon the AAP by Google's rejection of one proposal the AAP made during negotiations. Reality is Mrs. Schroeder is not doing anything she doesn't want to do. While a discussion of copyright laws could be healthy, this fight seems misguided.

Mrs. Schroeder noted that while “Google Print Library could help many authors get more exposure and maybe even sell more books, authors and publishers should not be asked to waive their long-held rights so that Google can profit from this venture.” But authors and publishers are not being asked to waive any rights. In fact, Google has promised to respect the rights of anyone who asserts them over any individual work. Clearly, the scare tactics and scenarios of doom Mrs. Schroeder used while in Congress are still part of her repetoire.

Google calls the project a "historic effort to make millions of books easier for people to find and buy." Couple that with the first part of Mrs. Schroeder's statement above, and you begin to see clearer to the truth. David Drummond, Google's general counsel and vice president of corporate development, said in a statement that "creating an easy to use index of books is fair use under copyright law and supports the purpose of copyright: to increase the awareness and sales of books directly benefiting copyright holders." [italics mine] How do they plan to do this? Instead of searching for just an author or title or keyword in some cases, users will now be able to search complete texts of books and determine if the results are relevant to their needs. A brief inclusion of, say, Natalie Barney in one book might now be revealed to a biographer who can determine, by the context, whether it is inconsequential or enlightening. If the latter, then the biographer can go forward and purchase the book. The process will be little different from my inclusion of this quote from Google:

when you preview [an item still under copyright protection] on Google Print, you'll only see snippets of text directly around your search term. This snippet view is designed to help users find the book in their search results and make a decision about whether to go find a physical copy of the book with just bibliographic information and a few short sentences around their search query.

Translation: additional book sales.

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