Millions of E-books on the way?

Google Books logoYou might have heard of Google Book Search, which allows you to search the text of millions of books and provides full-text access to books no longer protected by copyright. You might also have heard that Google was being sued by the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild on the grounds that by scanning all these books, they were infringing copyright on a massive scale. Finally, you might have heard the news in October of a settlement that would allow Google to continue its Book Search project. But have you heard what this settlement means for libraries?

As part of the settlement, Google would make a large portion of its database of full-text books–those that are currently out of print but still protected by copyright–available to libraries in two forms. First, it would sell subscriptions that libraries could purchase, just as we do other electronic databases. Second, it would provide access to its database at no cost from a limited number of computers within the library.

Clearly we will need more details to assess exactly how this settlement (which has not yet been approved by the court) might affect SCC library users. For instance, how much will a subscription cost, and how might Google limit library users’ ability to use the books in its database? What is clear is that this arrangement has the potential to add millions of books to our collection, books from some of the world’s greatest libraries, including Harvard, University of California, University of Michigan, Columbia, and Stanford.

If you’d like to explore the issues further, here are a few links:

  • Google’s press release announcing the settlement
  • A discussion of the issues on the Digital Campus podcast (start at 21:15)
  • A bibliography of pieces written about Google Book Search
  • Siva Vaidhyanathan’s blog, The Googlization of Everything, which trains a critical eye on the activities of the world’s most interesting corporation
  • For those who can’t get enough, a link dump collecting all sorts of responses to these developments
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