Google today announced that it has reached a deal with book publishers to settle two copyright lawsuits over potential copyright violations in its Google Book Search product. This $125 million settlement, which still needs approval from a U.S. district court, will be used to establish a Book Rights Registry that will ensure that publishers and authors receive compensation from subscription services and ad revenue. For users of Google Book Search, this settlement will mean that they might soon be able to build an “online bookshelf” and buy licenses to read the full-text of books in Google’s index.
Google will now be able to fade out the ‘snippet view’ in Google Book Search, which only showed very small amounts of text from a given book. Instead, most books will now allow readers to preview 20% of the book.
Hmm, I wonder what if anything this will do the API. I had already noticed that many books that the GBS API advertised as ‘snippets’ in fact allowed viewing of substantial content, while other books advertised as ‘snippets’ did not. Maybe this means that the API-advertised label ‘snippets’ will, at least in the US, always mean substantial access. (apparently substantial means 20%? But I think it’s any 20% you want. I never looked at enough pages for GBS to start locking me out I guess? Because I was seeing books that appeared to have 99% of the pages online. But I never tried to look at each page.)
Right now, there are also a number of books advertised as “no view” that in fact DID have snippet/search-inside functionality. It would be great if this would change, and books with actual snippet/no-view functionality would be advertised as “snippet”. I was told by a Google engineer that this lack of granularity inside “noview” was in fact a mysterious “policy decision” at Google’s end. Maybe this settlement will change the motivation for the policy.
Libraries, universities, and other organizations will also be able to purchase an institutional subscription, which will give users the ability to access the full text of all the titles in the Google Books index. This, depending on the pricing, could turn out to be a revolutionary development for libraries.
I’ll say. Absolutely depending on pricing, and absolutely could be incredibly revolutionary for libraries and our users. And revolutionary (in a bad way) for current eBook vendors. What if we get 90% of those books from GBS for 10% of the price we were paying for smaller packages to eBook vendors?
This also makes me worry even more about Google’s monopoly on this stuff. What if users really do start using GBS as their only/main book search interface? Is there any reason not to, is there anything they’d be missing? Well, so long as GBS doesn’t have a link resolver link to our library, they’re missing finding out if the library has it in print, or in a licensed electronic copy (for that other 80%), easy access to ILL, etc. Man, I wish GBS would add a link resolver link like Google Scholar does. Probably another “policy decision”. Otherwise, there’s enhancing LibX to do so, I see that as a coming priority.
But, still, I don’t like monopolies like this. I don’t like a crucial library service being provided at the whim of a single vendor, without a contract, with no competitors, who can choose to change it however and whenever they want, and supplies advertising of their choosing which may or may not be in the interests of our users. And more importantly then advertising, monopolizes the links from the hits. Why would Google want a link resolver link, when they can instead link to vendors for fulfillment of individual books (electronic or printed), from which Google can get a kickback?
Internet Archive, HathiTrust, get your acts together! Libraries, get your acts together and start funding these efforts!