Google Holds the Keys to Its Own Destruction

You may remember that Google partnered with a bunch of libraries to violate the copyright of publishers.  And that Google, because it is so ginormous and because the idea of being able to search libraries’ contents on the internet is so awesome, many folks were torn.

It is a good idea.

They implemented it in just about the most immoral way possible and tried to make up for it by letting publishers opt in and making their books searchable on the web.  Why this makes up for it is that it’s a good idea; publishers just wanted to have some control over copyrighted material.

Well, it turns out that Google really wants publishers to put their material AT Google and that Google seems very nervous when publishers start talking about just posting book content on the web at their own sites, because Google would index that AND publishers would have control over it.

 “Oh, but we have so much server space…”

And server space is getting cheaper all the time.

I think it’s about it get interesting for Google. 

5 thoughts on “Google Holds the Keys to Its Own Destruction

  1. I don’t trust Google on this matter, but I’m not sure that the publishers have either the authors’ or the information’s best interests in mind, either. After all, they’re the ones who print artifically small runs and let books go out of print because they don’t want the storage costs. The best model I know of for making academic books available on the web is the one used by Libro. Authors get their copyrights back from the publisher and turn them over to the site, and the books get put up on the web with all the criticl apparatus (usually in a more user-friendly form than the original publisher used).

  2. Hunh. That’s a really neat idea.I don’t like that Google so freely violates all the copyright stuff*, but I similarly distrust the cry that the publishers are the ones most wronged. It’s the same problem I have with music and DRM; if I could trust that the artists were getting anything even vaguely close to what I’m giving the rest of the industry when the big corporations cry, I’d be more inclined to buy CDs and such. But as it is, if I can’t get it directly from the artist (or through a service like iTunes, though I have issues with their DRM for completely different reasons), I’ll generally either download it or do without. Lately, mostly the latter.But giving the artists a more direct hand in it is really good. I like Baen’s model. Their Free Library is open for (their) authors who want to participate. Authors can put as much or as little of as many of their books as they like up on the library for anyone to read. Many put up sample chapters that way, which lets you browse quickly from one artist you like to another in the same genre. Some put up entire books once they’ve gone out of print, so that people can still read them. That, coupled with a for-profit extension ("If you liked this sample, click here to purchase the rest of the book in the format of your choice…"), would be the perfect solution in my eyes. Easy to opt in or out of, and directly tied to the authors and the authors’ interests. All of the work done by the publishing company would still get compensation of a degree (at least on the for-profit side), and the reader could be assured that there would be something in it for the people producing the actual intellectual property.It wouldn’t solve problems of piracy, but that’s the problem with all digital rights issues; nothing will stop truly determined pirates, and while a certain level of protection is needed, too much restriction will only make people more likely to turn to piracy out of spite or laziness. Honesty, transparency, and ease of use** go a long way toward making people inclined to do things right.* Though I will grant that Google’s idea holds a lot of allure for me. The ability to search for things, even in books, and find what you’re looking for? That’s… just kind of mind-blowingly awesome. I can understand why it would suck for a number of people along the way, and that’s why I’m wary of it, but there’s an info-junkie in me just squeeing with joy at the idea.** NM, how do you know about Libro? Their copyright page just returned an error to me, and their main page doesn’t have any of the information you gave. Not that I distrust you, but I’d love for someplace that cool to have better web service. If I could code worth anything, I’d volunteer to do it myself. *laughs*

  3. I know about Libro because I was part of the organization that got it started. And I know some of the authors whose works are up there (and I’m aware that others have gone out of copyright) so I know that it has all been done legitimately. You’re right about that copyright page, though. I have dropped Jim Brodman a note about it.

  4. Oh, no, no. I wasn’t trying to take credit for it. That goes to Jim Brodman, period. His idea, his work to get it started, his continued oversight and administrative efforts. Once he had the idea, he came to the American Association of Research Historians of Medieval Spain to ask whether we thought it would fly and everybody said OMGYouAreAGenius. The organization provides a little (a laughably teensy amount; it’s a laughably teensy group; that’s why it’s got such a laughably long name) funding and grant-writing help from time to time, and suggests books to add. And then can cheerfully assign out of print books to students ’cause they’re on the web.

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