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January 5, 2009

BookSearch — An Update [9:02 am]

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.

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