This Google Print thing – Not so sure about that

Google is really really championing the cause to scan in all the worlds books so we can find excerpts from them, which will then allow us to do what exactly? Buy them from a reseller that has a deal with Google? Google are unclear about this. They’re also unclear as to whether they’ll give copies of all these digitized books to the vendors themselves so they can use them. What they really seem to be doing though is disregarding the wishes of those who own the rights to books and do what they want. Clever spindoctoring has the publishers looking like bad guys and Google with puppy dog eyes going “But all we wanted to do is help people find any information they wanted and the band publishing guys are stopping us. *pout*.”

I’d be for this more if they scanned them in with the permission of the publishers first, that when a search lands on a result there will be a link to buy the book from the publisher or a an option to get an electronic copy of the book.

Dave Winer has been one of the few geeks speaking out against Google Print but he makes some very good points.

“The world would be a much worse place if the card catalog in a library only contained the books that the publisher had come by and put in,” said Alex Macgillivray, an attorney at Google.

Of course, that makes sense, you nod your head, how true, but then you realize that the analogy doesn’t work. If card catalogs were as good at selling books as Google claims Google Print will be, they’d batch-submit all their publications using the marvel of computer technology (they know how to write scripts in NY too, or in a pinch, they can hire a wizard from California). No one has to “come by” in the age of the Internet. How quaint. And misleading.

That’s the issue. Google is making this opt-out not opt-in. So you have to go to the effort of saying NO or otherwise they’ll scan your content. I guess their attitude is that there are no robots.txt files for books so they can do what they want. Search online is opt-out so they must use the same mentality for everything else. Perhaps the publisher should create a new robots.txt for their web content and exclude all things Google until Google start behaving.

Google are not doing this to be altruistic, they’re doing this to make money, off new content they don’t own and that is NOT in the public domain.

Dave adds more thoughts to the debate.

Why doesn’t Google do a good thing and link to libraries when the search results come back? Though I doubt the publishers would want that either. They’d want people to buy the books. Still, amke it opt-in, plenty of small publishers who’ll take this up and eventually the other publishers might do the same. Or join the Open Content Alliance.

4 Responses to “This Google Print thing – Not so sure about that”

  1. […] Google Print continues to excite comment. Damien Mulley came out against Google Print today quoting Dave Winer’s argument that it should be opt-in, not opt-out. I disagree. If Google had taken that approach to websites, they would never have become the useful resource they are now. This also misses the point that for the majority of out-of-print books, no-one is sure who owns the copyright, so who would opt the book in? […]

  2. RMSzero says:

    I didn’t know fair use didn’t apply unless the author opted-in. Am I no longer allowed to quote someone else unless I get their permission?

  3. Damien says:

    Ah yes fair use. Fair to the quoter or fair to the publisher or both? One of my constitutional Law books costs €220 to buy, perhaps I should scan it in and upload it and allow people to quote snippets from it. Any snippet.

    Fair use came into being before the ability of a few billion people to get quotes from a book without having to have it in front of them. Surely to be fair, if you want to quote from a book, you can either go to a library or buy the book or borrow it. But the library is Google Print you say! Right, so instead of 12500 libraries each buying 4 copies of the book, you just have Google scanning it in and giving it to the world to quote from? Where does the publisher or author make money?

    So going back to my €220 Constitutional Law book. If that was freely available online, even just snippets of it, less people would buy it. Not that many people are keen to buy such an expensive book but we have to. A few people spent a few years of their lives researching that book and putting it together. The audience for it is very limited, probably just Irish Law students and practitioners. I doubt it will be a bestseller even in a niche market. The author and the publisher need to get back their investment from this book.

    I hear lots of arguments about how they can make money from somewhere else, some other ways of distribution and give the core content away for free. But that’s like saying to a famous bakery that you are now giving away the secret recipe to their “wonder cake” after you walking into their kitchen and scanning it in. Now you tell them they should think of another way of leveraging their baking abilities. You are taking their sales channel and smashing it.

    As a slight aside, if you wanted to quote a line from a book, surely you would need context, you’d need to have a better insight into the paragraph and the chapter the line came from.

  4. […] A while back I posted about Google Print/Books and them wanting to scan in every book without first consulting the Authors or Publishers and how I agreed with Dave Winer and thought it was wrong of Google to use the model of the web in relation to the publishing world. Tom Raftery disagreed with me and supported Larry Lessig’s arguments. I still stand by what I said and suggest people Download the torrent of the Battle Over Books debate. […]