The deadline for authors to object to the inclusion of their works on Google Books is approaching. Google maintains that this will bring books to loads more people than before and authors including Ursula Le Guin maintain Google is trying to walk off with people's copyright.
OK, declaration of vested interests - as my profile information will confirm to members of this forum, I am a published author - my most recent book, "This Is Social Media", came out in October.
I have a reason for mentioning it, other than a plug. Because it's an understanding of social media that leads me to believe the Google Book thing is actually a very good idea except for one detail.
Social media is all about sharing. People offer links for free, people offer help. It enables us to be the people we want to be and not just productivity units, if you like. I've offered small bits of help and information on Twitter to people who've asked and been repaid tenfold in commissions, personal branding, all sorts. It works.
But it only works if the information and content is out there. If (say) my book were available in its entirety on Google then yes, technically someone could read the whole thing for nothing. But - and this is only a guess - I believe they're just as likely to go and buy a copy after enjoying part of it as sit there and read the lot. They're more likely to track me down (easy) and ask me to an event, get me to do some work for them, whatever, after sampling some of the work online, assuming they like what they see.
This is why I'm broadly in favour of what Google is trying to do. For a writer like me it's honestly all good. And the area in which I disagree with Google? That's simple. As Ursula Le Guin has pointed out, there will be territories in which authors have specifically to opt out if they're not interested.
This, I believe, is plain wrong. Le Guin owns the right to her work, I own the rights to mine. Contrary to her best interests though I believe her views may be, 'help yourself' should never be the default position.
But make it opt-in and it will have my full support.