Friday, August 12, 2005

Yes, Virginia, There is a Publishing Industry: Google Regroups on Book Scanning Program

As noted by CNET News and Google's own weblog there are strong indications that Google has not only been listening to vocal publishers' concerns about their Google Print Publisher program but actually deciding not to ignore them. Publishers had been very vocally opposed to Google's scanning of materials under copyright provided by major university libraries. There will be a pause in the scanning of these materials until November to allow publishers to communicate via the Publisher program which volumes being scanned are fine for scanning and which are to be excluded. This makes eminent sense for all involved, especially Google, which is becoming more aware of the revenue opportunities to be had via sensible cooperation with content sources that want to monetize their publications. For out-of-print books one can imagine the ability of users who encounter them via the Google Print capability and to order up a print-on-demand copy of the volume - with proceeds going to copyright holders as appropriate.

As we've mentioned in earlier entries it's kind of amusing that publishers have left this opportunity as fallow ground until Google decided to plow it, so the ruckus they've raised about the scanning program is in some ways far less about copyright per se and more about publishers awakening to the opportunities for books online rather late in the game. Perhaps publishers will begin to take eBook packaging a little more seriously thanks to the Google program. In the meantime Google is at least beginning a more productive dialog with publishers to establish the foundation of an appropriate commercial framework that honors rights holders and that will help content consumers to honor them as well.
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