Monday, August 15, 2005

Google Print set back

On Biblical Theology, Jim West notes an article from

Google Halts Scanning of Copyrighted Books
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
Stung by a publishing industry backlash, Google Inc. has halted its efforts to scan copyrighted books from some of the nation's largest university libraries so the material can be indexed in its leading Internet search engine.

The company announced the suspension, effective until November, in a notice posted on its Web site just before midnight Thursday by Adam Smith, the manager of its ambitious program to convert millions of books into a digital format.
The announcement can be read on Google Blog, which is a great deal more up-beat than the Associated Press article above.

Although neither the article nor Google's announcement make the distinction explicitly, it seems that the halt is not over the continuing Google Print project but specifically over the scanning of material in libraries. The vast majority of what I have found on Google Print (and it is a huge amount) is not from this older, scanned material, but from contemporary works that Google have taken over digitally from the publishers themselves, e.g. Cambridge University Press (cf. my recent post on Mark Chancey's book). This is comparable to what is going on on Amazon and the story that they tell is that the full-text availability tends to increase sales rather than the reverse. I'd be interested to hear more on whether there is evidence to back that up.

Update (15.38): more on The Google Weblog under the title Google Sells Out Users to Publishers. This post makes it clear that the issue is indeed one about whether or not to the books can be allowed to be scanned and so available for searching, and not necessarily that there would be full text availability on all the scanned books. This blog is pretty biting in its criticism of the publishers:
Publishers, in typical copyright-holder paranoia fashion worried that perhaps the two line snippets Google would be providing of their books would spell the end of the world for their entire industry . . . . That's right: Google won't even scan any book copyright holders ask them not to, even though doing so is perfectly legal. It's as if copyright holders got to dictate what books get placed in libraries. Their short-sighted selfishness will cost us all, depriving us of our heritage in our online Library of Alexandria.
Note: the Google Weblog independent of Google -- run by an enthusiast.

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