The Google Book Scanning Project: Issues and Updates – EDUCAUSE Webinar Summary

Sat in on the EDUCAUSE webinar on the Google Book scanning project.  The speakers were

Jonathan Band
Counsel, Library Copyright Alliance
Dan Clancy
Engineering Director, Google Book Search

DanClancy comments:

  • Google uses people to scan, have scanned over 10 million books, spending lots of money but won’t disclose the amount.
  • Target is to scan 30 – 50 million books, but it’s tough to say, no one is really sure how many are out there
  • Snippet view books (preview 20% of title for free) will link to WorldCat, Amazon, others
  • OCR – 400 languages
  • Algorithmic pricing – consumer pricing model – designed to simulate what a regular market would do, purpose is not for libraries
  • Why charging? – trying to strike a balance between interests of the rights holder (to get compensation for their work). Google is comfortable giving this access for free, but obviously authors want/need compensation so something has to be in place.
  • Books rights registry – google has set it up, but it will need to have an ongoing oversight -organization, board, international, etc.  The database of works/rights holder must be public, the registry is responsible for finding/maintaining this.
  • Readers – settlement doesn’t support a download to an eReader, but it is a service that the registry can approve going forward, google is not developing it’s own device
  • Google is investing in this project because if offers broad access so if it comes to play that only certain libraries can afford it, it doesn’t match their vision.  Important that libraries have choices, so they can do the subscription model or select a different one.

Jonathan Band comments:

The cost of digitizing and cost of finding the copyright owner for rights clearance are the two biggest challenges to this book scanning project, that’s why libraries or other consortia have not been able to do this on their own.

problems/controversy with the class action:

  • The whole idea of the class action suit itself – a few people mitigating and deciding the fate for everyone.  Some feel this is a legislative issue and shouldn’t be settled in a class action suit, which is private.
  • Competition, or lack there of.  Faculty/students will demand that a library subscribe to this and with no competition the pricing for the institutional subscription could be too high and lead to an undermining of library values – equity of access, privacy, intellectual freedom
  • Pricing – Google will propose a price and the Registry will realize pricing at market rates.  Parameters will consider similar products and services and the audience – corporate, educational, government, etc., and FTE
  • BRR may want to set price high b/c they represent the rights holders, whereas Google might want to set the price low since their business model is based on advertising.
  • No competition – who would enter the market now, no one would be able to compete since nearly 10 million books have been scanned already
  • Comparable pricing – compare to what? to journal subscriptions (which are current and high)
  • Partner libraries and Google – if price is too high they can challenge the price, a pricing review – but this is only for the library partners

Solution – Library Associations he is representing (ALA, ACRL, etc.) are not asking for the court to reject the settlement because the services (end result) are extremely desirable.  They are asking that the court supervise the interpretation and implementation.  The makeup of the BRR Board is critical and make sure the board represents the authors whose books are in research libraries, not the kind found in bookstores.  Make the service available under terms we can afford.

What flexibility does the court have?  The judge can approve or reject the settlement.  The Judge can reject it but make some “nudge/nudge, wink/wink” comments and then the parties can decide to agree on the modifications the judge has recommended.  But, they would have to go through the entire process again and get the 3 parties to agree.

There were tons of questions which couldn’t get answered due to time constraints

2 thoughts on “The Google Book Scanning Project: Issues and Updates – EDUCAUSE Webinar Summary”

  1. I love the library, it’s a great place to just look around and pick up books to read. You’re not forced to buy a book or anything, and at least in my library, the sections are obscured and unmarked. So if you really fancied having a read about the ocean and your friends are all into young adult fiction, you don’t make much of a fool of yourself.

    The other day my dad complained to me that he was starting to lose his vision. I explained to him that ever since he discovered YouTube, he’s been sitting watching videos on the computer screen and Wii, so it’s no question that it has something to do with it. I for once wish that they carried the same warnings that all video games come with. Yes, there is one good thing that you get out of reading an e-book, but there’s the other problem… You can damage your eyesight by staring at your screen too long. It doesn’t help that they’re getting tiny aswell!

    People argue that it’s going to get little known independent authors into the spotlight when in reality it won’t really do anything for them. What’s really going to happen is that the people who know SEO will begin to write SPAM Lit, including links to their websites, aswell as charging others to embed their links into their works. People are going to be dishing out $1,000 for a link in a book by an author who’s always at the top. Advertising on the internet is different than TV, radio, and newspapers, and people have to realize that. What you paid to get that ad in The Dallas Morning News will probably not get you the same exposure were you to get the same ad on their website. Word of mouth will help you, yes, but be prepared for some ridiculous new marketing schemes that will overthrow even the top guys down.

    Authors just don’t seem to get the internet, they just know that it can do them a lot of good and believe in it. They think if they get a little Twitter account, a little website, and a podcast of some sort, then they’re all set. They are also the same people who think sitting out an e-book on the internet is going to get them somewhere. In the internet marketing age, if you’re not supposedly good enough for a literature agent to support you, you need to go out there and show them otherwise. You need to build up a following, actively get involved in communities, talk with other inspiring writers, and put yourself out to the world. Don’t think that one site will be enough, you need to get involved in multiple places and make your mark.

    What I really want to see is for textbooks to be put online. Last year, I took this class called History of Popular Music, and it was thinner than my other book, but COST double!! My audio engineering ones were a lot cheaper but had more information. It might have been priced in order to pay all the people that they used pictures from, but it’s just too ridiculous! Another thing is that most places don’t take used textbooks these days because they come out with new editions every year. If there were internet versions, students could possibly save $500 on buying a copy and print out the sections themselves.

    So yeah, on an educational standpoint, Google Books would work, but mainstream distribution? No chance!

  2. @Jessica

    Not a lot of people though have access to great books, but they can afford to rent an internet connection.

    I agree with you though that it is more worthwhile and eye-friendly to read a book than an e-book.

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