Harvard Bails Out On Google Book Scanning Deal; Disagrees With Settlement Terms

from the and-here-come-the-problems dept

I'm on the record as being opposed to Google's decision to cave in to authors and publishers with its book scanning project. Many people I normally agree with have taken the other side, claiming that Google's agreement keeps the company out of court and creates a win-win solution. However, I still think, over the long term, this agreement is quite problematic -- and we're already seeing it at the margins. For example, Harvard has now dropped out of the scanning program, noting that it teamed up with Google because the program was going to make the library content freely and widely available. Yet, the settlement will impose charges and will greatly limit the usefulness of the library's collection. From Harvard's standpoint, this goes against what the library stands for.

I would argue that it goes directly against what Google used to stand for as well. Rather than making the world's information accessible and findable, this move is an attempt to lock up the world's information in Google's proprietary format, so that Google can charge people for it. It sets in place a forced business model that actually diminishes the potential usefulness and value of books, and sets a bad precedent for just about everyone else. It's still difficult to see any positives from this deal. It's good to see Harvard stand up for what's right, rather than giving in.
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Filed Under: book scanning, harvard
Companies: google


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  1. identicon
    JJ, 4 Nov 2008 @ 8:09am

    DRM for books

    Honestly, this sounds like the same thing that happened with Apple and music. Apple wanted to sell music online, and publishers said, "sure, no problem, as long as you put restrictive DRM on it and give us a cut of the profits, otherwise we'll sue you."

    Then Google wanted to put books online for free, and the publishers said, "sure not problem, as long as you put restrictive DRM on it and give us a cut of the profits, otherwise we'll sue you."

    But you have to understand that these books were not written by authors who were paid in advance and have no right to expect anything more... on the contrary, they were probably written for extremely small sums of money, with the understanding that more money would come over time, perhaps over a very long time, as more people bought the books. The issue here is that, in this case, there's sort of a "long tail" problem, where Google's project is equivalent to publishing just a few copies of millions of different books; so no author stands to gain very much money, but google stands to lose many millions paying a few bucks to each one. It's the same problem the movie industry has, where they end up having to send checks for $1.27 each year to every extra who happened to appear in any film.

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