Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Google Book Search settlement will expand access

Over the last few weeks we've heard a number of questions about the Google Book Search settlement and what it means for readers. Over the coming days, we'll attempt to answer some of those questions on this blog, but first, we think it's important to explain how exactly the settlement will help expand access to books in the United States. We'd also like to remind authors and publishers who have questions that they should visit the settlement Notice website.

Have you ever gone to your local bookstore looking for a book only to be told that it’s not there? You look for it on Amazon; they don’t offer it. You go to your local library and it’s not there. But you know that it exists because you read it your freshman year in college.

Or let's say you’re a second generation American interested in reading books in your parents’ native language, Greek. Try finding more than a few books in foreign languages in most town libraries or bookstores in the United States.

Or you're a graduate student who has been doing research on your thesis for years. You think you've read every book there is to read on your topic, but then you type your query into Google Book Search, and you suddenly discover a new original book or monograph that you weren't even aware of before.

Until now, we've only been able to show these users a few snippets of text for most of the in-copyright books we've scanned through our Library Project. Since the vast majority of these books are out of print, to actually read them you have to hunt them down at a library or a used bookstore. And if you can't find them -- because the only known copy is at a library on the other side of the country--you're unfortunately out of luck.

Under the settlement that will change for users in the U.S.:
  • When you find the book you're searching for, you’ll be able to preview 20% of the book over the Internet from anywhere in the U.S. If you want to look at the whole thing, you'll be able to go down to your public library where there will be a computer station with access to the whole book for free. And if you don’t want to leave home or want a copy for yourself, you’ll be able to purchase access to an electronic copy of the book. As always, if the book is old enough to be in the public domain, you’ll be able to download the whole book for free.
  • If you’re at a university, in addition to your libraries' free access points, your school can obtain an institutional subscription that gives you access to most books that we've scanned. And scholars and students who don’t keep the same study hours as the library will be able to look at any book, anywhere, any time.

  • If you are vision impaired, the settlement will open a world of books to which you've never had access. Visually impaired people will be able to search for books through the Google Books interface and purchase, borrow, or read at a public library any of the books that are available to the general public in a format that is accessible to the vision impaired.

  • If you want to read in foreign languages, you will have access to tens of thousands of more books than you have today. Books in Spanish add up to almost 10% of the books already scanned. If you account for the difference in numbers between books in Spanish and English, the usage per book in Spanish is more than three times what it is for books in English.
The settlement won't just expand access to out-of-print books, either. Because authors and publishers will have the ability to let users preview and purchase their in-print books through Google Book Search, readers will have even more options for accessing in-print books than they have today.

For users outside the U.S., the Google Book Search experience won't change unless rightsholders specifically authorize additional uses of their books outside the United States. And while the Google Book Search settlement will only allow for improved access in the U.S., we believe that this will constitute an unprecedented test bed for the development of similar services around the world.

As the discussion continues, it's important to understand what readers stand to gain.


Jeremie Lariviere said...

There are a number of out of print books that I'd Love to see on Google Book Search; the only copies are 50 year old used library copies for sale for over $100.
Also, I need to be able to read samples from books before I decide to buy them, and being able to do so through Google would be wonderful.

Stan said...

Without pioneer driving forces, which Google has become in this ever increasingly digital age, no progress can be made for the benefit of humanity. It's sad that there's so much friction that such a great project has been encountering. I have found amazing books through Google that I would've not had exposure to otherwise. Our society is constantly morphing, and libraries are about to be outlived.

ChrisG said...

I do not suppport your program or any program to digitize books. This is a huge step backwards in an essential media for perserving and circulating knowledge. The cost of publishing books is covered by sales and the maintenance of good publishers. Without this filter and the support of authors that publishers provide, there wouild be no possible standards of any kind for print. Your effort to sieze and digitze books is a threat to the integrity of written knowledge as the internet is without filters of any kind and it threatens the standards that have preserved print as the valid and respected medium from the 1400's. Also there are serious medical and mental issues involving the processing of digital print by the human optical and mental internal systems that trigger the lower levels of intelligence and limit higher level processing. I am very hopeful your project gets shut down.

Anyone interested can research for themsleves the history of print and the dangers of moving printed books to digital forms. I really hope this fad is seen for the shallow attempt to grandstand and sieze assets that belong to the world and to the tradditions that have supported high quality research and literature for centuries.

ChrisG said...

PS I wanted to post that I dont make these comments lightly, i worked as a book Editor for a small press and helped start two small presses, and researched and studied print and the history of books for years.... I am by profession a painter, but my father is a publshed poet and i have lived with and loved books all my life. I warn any and all that we need to preserve the printed word as print for many reasons and welcome any inquries about this and my research on it and the phenomenon called flicker fusion and the orienting reflex as it affects visual processing of print by the human brain. said...

I feel the US Governments concerns that this may cause unfair competition for anyone else - because the agreement blankets a lot of works.. and any followers would need to petition copy owners individually - is valid.

What does the future hold for other people who wish to sell these same works, will sales strictly be shared between Google and the owner or will we someday see reseller programs via Google such as Adsense, or Amazons models? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jill said...

Expanding access suggests that you are making the books themselves more available. You are not doing that. You are only surfacing some percentage of the books' content and then pushing the user towards a set of alternate access channels (bookstores, libraries, etc.) where the user may or may not actually be able to get access to the content. You are actually collaborating in the creation of a new model for reading -- that of non-ownership access to content.

Josh R said...

I am thrilled. Generations of knowledge will be available at my fingertips. Thank you Google!

bowerbird said...

i loved the goal of a global cyberlibrary.

i supported your effort, loud and proud,
against many critics, all over cyberspace.

right up until you did this "settlement",
where you try to seize the ability to be
sole supplier of this global cyberlibrary.

we are _not_ handing you a monopoly,
especially not at the prices you'll charge,
either de jure or de facto, so give it up.

if need be, we will have the government
declare eminent domain on those books.
that's our cultural heritage inside of 'em,
and we're _not_ gonna let one company
seize them and ransom it back to us...

rewrite the "settlement" to allow others
to compete gracefully -- google should
have no fear of fair competition, since
you're such an excellent competitor --
or i will fight you every step of the way,
from now until you concede defeat...

i supported you, google, sent you love
and admiration, and then you went and
double-crossed me with the shortcut
of this "settlement", a big power-grab.


Californian said...

To respond to the comments made by ChrisG, you do have some valid points. There is harm in looking at any light-emitting screen for too long just as there is harm in looking at the sun (albeit with additional problems for vision, but in simplified terms, they are equivalent), but many people do so for hours every day regardless of whether or not they are reading books. The world will not regress to analog media as you have proposed, if only for the fact that our world is becoming increasingly digital. Books will become like Vinyls eventually; sales of downloadable books will be strongly increasing and books will be collectors' and novelty items. Furthermore, Google Books is not acting as a publisher. But why do we need publishers? Excluding the jobs they provide, why would it be a drawback if you could submit your works to Google Books in the same way that users submit videos to YouTube? Publishers are often pesky middlemen that, in reality, do not weed out all bad books. If there were a popular ratings system for books on Google Books, the authors could generate even more revenue from this easily-accessible model than through inconvenient bookstores while still allowing for easy judgment by users of what is appropriate. Granted, some books will be "silly" yet highly-rated because they are popular, but that occurs even now (Twilight?). I respect your opinion on the matter, however, and see your quality control concern, but the same happened when online stores began selling shoddily-encoded mp3's. Now people listen to them with high volumes (analogous to the visual risks of digital media) and with low-quality headphones so that bands do not have to excel in the fine details as Pink Floyd did, but can play loudly on the cymbals constantly because they were found on myspace instead of by a label (similar to the quality control that publishers provide). This could be alleviated by the publishing industry becoming someone who can "feature" books on the front page of Google Books and then have an "indie" section (although this would not necessarily analogous to the oft-higher-than-average "indie" music artists). Furthermore, the health concerns that arise with digitization could be alleviated with ebook-reader-access to Google Books (or download and transfer, but that is somewhat backwards) so that the screen is essentially equal to printed media.
To, I believe that there is a little legislation to be dealt with, but when few others are in the market now, there will most likely be no more in the future, so the legislation can be made when necessary. Ironically, this is the only issue that I feel legislation can be postponed on as I normally hold the opinion that it should be made in advance, but in this case, progress should not be halted for legal reasons that can be dealt with more readily and effectively while Google Books is in use by millions. I am also sure that others who want to sell these books could probably strike a deal with Google to do so, but I don't really know.
To Jill, I am not sure you actually read the post. It clearly says that people could buy them (that is, in the comfort of their own homes, not only in libraries, etc.), so that those who would normally not go out and buy the books could do so, thereby making the books more accessible. Moreover, those books who are in public domain but are out of print and accessible only to those who can go to, for instance, Oxford's library can now access those books. That is possible at this very moment, so even now Google Books has increased accessibility.

To Google, I would simply like to wholeheartedly thank you for everything you do. All of your innovations have become priceless in my life, and Google Voice has recently solved a few problems I have had, but that's a different story for another day. The initiative you have made with Google Books (I don't feel like writing out Google Book Search every time, and your site is at is truly a commendable one. "[T]o organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" is a task that only you at Google have truly taken on, and it is for the benefit of everyone; your profits hardly go up a little at the moment. I certainly hope that you do make a great deal of profit from this venture, however, as the benefits that I reap personally are potentially so great that I would feel bad not giving you any monetary credit. When I enter college next year, I will surely have the experience of buying numerous physical textbooks and lugging them about for hours, but for the past year, I have dreamed of being able to simply carry one ebook reader that would satisfy the needs of all of my classes. If the textbooks you already have scanned were for sale, it would be so much more accessible than having even to go to another site to buy them, but hundreds of times more so than carrying each book individually. On top of that, I have often forgotten books in my school locker and gotten home only to realize that I needed them for an essay. I have, I must confess, pirated these books in order to complete the assignment. Although I had access to the book at school, I still feel bad that I have done that, but this problem would be alleviated with Google Books if I could access them online. Furthermore, it would give credit to the author instead of having numerous books floating around schools with no indication of how widely read they were. Even now, I have discovered so many books (like Stan) that I really never would have even known existed. For the future, this could become a social experience, wherein which a group of friends could read a book together with a set number of pages daily and comments on the side. Book reading could be a friendly and thought-provoking enjoyment for more than those who have time to go to a formal book club with others who have flexible schedules. Books are always more interesting when the experiences of others are brought into the mix.

I hope that, if you did not already have these ideas, that you would consider using some of them as many people, myself included, would benefit greatly from them. (It'd be cool if you'd shoot me a thank you email if it becomes popular though ;) ).

design guy said...

Looking back, it's fair to say that I've been in love with books for most of my life. First by way of reading or collecting them, then by way of opening a small bookstore, and finally by way of designing, building, and publishing them.

Physical books are artifacts, and by virtue of physical costs to produce and distribute -- of limited edition. It's the limited access to their content that adds or takes away their value. Knowledge is a tool, and making the scarce commonplace may or may not be the intent of it's author and may or may not diminish a books value.

That's a business model every publisher or author needs to decide for themselves. IMO, where electronic publishing with unlimited rights are being offered, Google is providing an invaluable service to the reader, author, and publisher. However, in cases where these rights have not been explicitly granted, Google is attempting to determine for themselves the value of making something scarce -- commonplace.

While digitizing content may be convenient, perhaps even desirable to some readers, it's also forgery, counterfeiting (if content is not properly verified), and piracy of someone else's intellectual property. Most knowledge yearns to be free, but it is not necessarily the intent of the author or publisher to make it so free, or available at a time of someone else's convenience, as to diminish it's value.

Traditionally, it's been the distribution model which has controlled this, and if it's removed from the hands of the author or publisher then there may be little to no incentive to publish.

For any author or publisher that opts in to Googles service, I can see increased value on the front end, with perhaps some decreased value on the back end. But for those who wish to apply a different business model and let scarcity determine the value of the artifact, for example where just 1% of a book -- as in a computer algorithm, recipe, or revelation of some secret source or method -- determines it's value to different segments of the market, Google should not be available as a tool to interlope and undercut the author or publishers intentions.

Publishing is a complicated business, because it's not only demand for the full content, but certain portions of the content to different audiences, it's wrapper, and the control over it's distribution that determines the market value of what's being published. Even accessing 20% of a book may be too much for someone other than the author or publisher to determine.

I hope authors, publishers, readers, and those charged with protecting our IP show a little more spine to prevent unauthorized theft in cases where derivative rights have not been settled. Thank you for the opportunity to blog my sentiments.

Charbax said...

I posted my solution for the Google Book Settlement here:

I think that Obama and other world leaders need to snap their fingers and make it so that all books should be available worldwide for everyone. Pay copyright owners through a $5 per month average tax. Allow copyright owners to opt-out, if they are chicken.

But $5 per month per person is $5 billion per month just from Europe, USA and a few other rich countries. That is probably more than enough to pay for all active writers, active musical composers and performers, active film makers active tv producers and active bloggers/journalists/poets/painters/photographers and more.

Seriously, you need to get to the solution right now. We as people of this planet cannot afford to wait any longer for a legal solution for arts and cultural expansion on the Internet free for everyone.

Anyways, Google, thanks for scanning the books.

Californian said...

Great idea, especially if you can get widespread support for it! Perhaps we could have a minimal book tax! Oh no taxes scary. Yeah, but if that gets you whatever books you want (and have a premium, for-pay section perhaps), it would totally be worth it.

Charbax said...

Yup, being part of the unlimited free access should be the default setting for all books, but giving all copyright owners the possibillity to opt-out being in that free unlimited book tax (free unlimited book subscription plan), and even if they want, require extra payments for access.

Jerry said...

I am a SF civil rights attorney and have studied the settlement documents and nominated myself as an independent author director of the Registry. I am not affiliated with any of the litigation parties. I think Google has to do a much better job of publicizing and selling the settlement and proposed e-publishing plan. Google cannot just refer authors and librarians to the official web site since it presents very complex legal documents that even experienced attorneys cant easily digest.
Google refers to Spanish and Greek language books, but what has it done to sell the settlement in those countries to those authors?Today the NY Times reports on foreign nation censorship of the web. Does Google promise to make scanned books available in web hostile nations to web users eager for access to the books and libraries promised by Google to sell the settlement?
The anti trust objections focus on google's use of class action procedures to round up so called orphan book rights and a legal clause called a most favored nation clause to enshrine its economic terms against competing e-publishers. What is your answer to those issues? And can Google explain the difference in economic and e-publishing terms between the Settlement and the Publishing Partner program, which authors and publishers can use instead?
So far Google has not answered these questions, and as a result opposition to the settlement is still widespread.

J.Garchik S.F. Attorney

terence said...

Am I missing something, or are Google and the authors of numerous discussions of Book Search that I have seen (in New Yok Review of Books and elsewhere) missing a central point of the enterprise; namely, that it expands exponentially the data base for general inquiries on Google?

LaMirabelle said...

I am an author and my book is on Google Book Search but how does Google plan to pay me (that's the idea, right?)?
Basically it's a great idea and I'm glad that people can find me that way too.
I'm here in case anybody's wondering :


Michael W. said...

For those who'd like the follow the debate about the Google settlement more closely, I've created a web page where you can download as many of the legal documents in this dispute as I have been able to acquire, particularly those involved with the recent extension of the opt-out date. Though contacts in Europe, I'm also posting links to the news articles there about the settlement. You can find those downloads and links at:

I am closely involved in this dispute. I was one of seven authors, including the estate of John Steinbeck, who asked the court to grant a four-month delay in this settlement. The court granted out request.

Google was asking for a two-month delay and sixteen academic writers asked the court for a six month delay. In accepting our request, the court seems to have split the difference between the three parties.

--Michael W. Perry, Seattle

design guy said...

Does anyone know if it is possible for authors/publishers to opt out for any or all future publications, or in the future require that Google have authors opt-in to their scheme should an author want to?

spgpt said...

As an author who does not wish his work to be made available by Google how do I stop them? For books that have lost their copyright I can see the benefit but how can they just take my information and then make it available to anyone without my permission? So does that mean I can use the Google logo for my own use 20% of the time on my website and advertising?

Trademark, copyright, patent I guess were becoming China and allowing those with the power and money to work around the laws. If anything we should be making these laws stronger. We are already getting reamed in the world economy by intellectual piracy and now we are going to make it legal here. Just another example of why the USA is soon to be a second rate country because we let corruption, money and power dictate and the public gets screwed. Goodbye middle class hello poverty, and stick it to the talented people who hardly get paid enough as it is for their hard work.

Sounds like we should start calling that company "Osama bin Google" since they want to dictate how we can and can not protect what is ours. Whether it's religious fanaticism or corporate fanaticism whats the difference? Since when in America did we start to allow the enterprising spirit become such a low priority? Google is a prime example of how power corrupts. We have let a few with power sell out our dynamic business/consumer relationship to mirror the cut throat, corrupted ways of other countries and societies just so they can make more money or gain power or prestige or recognition.

Obama needs to stop focusing on killing flying bugs and start to focusing on who's slowly killing America. How much did Google contribute to both sides of the fence to make sure they get their way????????????

Californian said...

Here bud. This solves your stated problem. However, I can't help you to stop being absurd.

design guy said...

What seems to me absurd is placing the onus on authors to opt out. They own their IP rights.

It's a free country, so let the authors and publishers who agree to act as Guinea pigs only opt in to Google's promotion.

Californian said...

I suppose that was a strong word, so I apologize. However, Google Images indexes images from websites and doesn't ask for permission. Should websites have to opt-in to be included in search or images? It seems like books are just a print version of websites. Both are published, copyrighted material that should be able to be accessed in one way or another. That you have to pay for the books is fine (just as there are subscription-based websites), but Google should not have to go out of their way to be allowed access to this material because there are few (if any) negatives for authors (publishers are a different story because they could theoretically become obsolete).

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design guy said...

Now that the justice department has finally echoed some of the concerns expressed here — I think it highly appropriate that a cooling off period be invoked to rethink this juggernaut and fabricate a new approach.

Bookbob said...

Since Google has made the public domain books available through selected resellers such as Sony and Barnes & Noble, how can we and other ebook retailers make them available free for our ebook customers?