Google’s Sweet Book Deal

If you read books, you’ll want to know what Robert Darnton has to say about the pending Google book deal, in Google & the Future of Books – The New York Review of Books. Here’s a teaser:

As an unintended consequence, Google will enjoy what can only be called a monopoly—a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information. Google has no serious competitors. Microsoft dropped its major program to digitize books several months ago, and other enterprises like the Open Knowledge Commons (formerly the Open Content Alliance) and the Internet Archive are minute and ineffective in comparison with Google. Google alone has the wealth to digitize on a massive scale. And having settled with the authors and publishers, it can exploit its financial power from within a protective legal barrier; for the class action suit covers the entire class of authors and publishers. No new entrepreneurs will be able to digitize books within that fenced-off territory, even if they could afford it, because they would have to fight the copyright battles all over again. If the settlement is upheld by the court, only Google will be protected from copyright liability.

A policy change of this magnitude should not be negotiated behind closed doors to the detriment of all purveyors of information but Google.

2 thoughts on “Google’s Sweet Book Deal”

  1. Richard, as an author myself, I certainly would not like Google to publish my work without negotiating with me for the right t do so. I don’t want to give a monopoly to any one company, nor do I particularly like or trust Google (especially since it is lobbying in DC to destroy my business). I think that several companies should be allowed to bid on the right to publish my work. And it’s certainly wrong for a court to award it the right, without my say-so, behind closed doors.

  2. Your last sentence is exactly on point… Amazing that the folks who scream loudest about openness and transparency shut the doors quickly when it comes to Google Book Search.

    At the very least, we should demand that the Google Book hearing in June be webcast.

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