The Risks of Getting What You Asked For

Blu-Ray won the format war — now what? Blu-ray Format Struggles With Uncertain Prospects (pdf)

[M]any eyes will be on Blu-ray, which for the first time has the floor largely to itself as the heir apparent to the DVD. Over the last decade, DVD players and discs have generated tens of billions of dollars for Hollywood and the consumer electronics industry, so the pressure for a blockbuster sequel is high.

This year will be crucial for the new format. Heavy holiday discounting and the natural decline in electronics prices over time have pushed prices for some Blu-ray players under $200, a drop of well more than half in the last few years — and into the realm of affordability for many. At the same time, Blu-ray’s backers, including Sony and the Walt Disney Company, face a growing chorus of skeptics that says the window for a high-definition disc format may be closing fast.

One reason is that discs of all kinds may become obsolete as a new wave of digital media services starts to flow into the living room. […]

BookSearch — An Update

Google Hopes to Open a Trove of Little-Seen Books (pdf)

For scholars and others researching topics not satisfied by a Wikipedia entry, the settlement will provide access to millions of books at the click of a mouse. “More students in small towns around America are going to have a lot more stuff at their fingertips,” said Michael A. Keller, the university librarian at Stanford. “That is really important.”

When the agreement was announced in October, all sides hailed it as a landmark settlement that permitted Google to proceed with its scanning project while protecting the rights and financial interests of authors and publishers. Both sides agreed to disagree on whether the book scanning itself violated authors’ and publishers’ copyrights.

In the months since, all parties to the lawsuits — as well as those, like librarians, who will be affected by it — have had the opportunity to examine the 303-page settlement document and try to digest its likely effects.

[…] So far, publishers that have permitted Google to offer searchable digital versions of their new in-print books have seen a small payoff. Macmillan, the company that owns publishing houses including Farrar, Straus & Giroux and St. Martin’s Press and represents authors including Jonathan Franzen and Janet Evanovich, offers 11,000 titles for search on Google. In 2007, Macmillan estimated that Google helped sell about 16,400 copies.

Authors view the possibility of readers finding their out-of-print books as a cultural victory more than a financial one.