Google Book Search no bad thing, says fed up author

happygeek 0 Tallied Votes 389 Views Share

I am a writer by profession. Over the last two decades, I have been fortunate enough to have seen more than twenty of my books make it into print. Some have even sold enough copies for me to earn royalties over and above my advance. With publishing house marketing budgets ever increasingly being squeezed, and us little authors in niche markets such as IT being most squished as a result, it can be difficult to sell enough copies to earn a living. Which is why, outside of the big name bestselling authors, the rest of us do other things to support our families. I am also a successful technology journalist, my main source of income, and a reluctant IT consultant who chooses clients based more on a belief in what they are doing than how much they can pay.

You might be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that news regarding the decision by the University of California to join forces with Google and allow the contents of several million of the 34 million titles in its libraries for inclusion in the Google Book Search project would be about as welcome as gas in a spacesuit hereabouts. With 100 libraries across 10 campuses spread around California, UC is apparently the largest research and academic library on the face of the planet. Assuming you do not include the Web, of course. By joining other great names in getting into bed with Google, names that include the likes of Harvard, Stanford and Oxford, UC have reignited the whole Google Book Search is bad for the publishing industry debate.

The argument goes something like this: by digitizing copyrighted content from a book, even a book that is available for borrowing from a library, and making said content freely available to anyone who searches for it using Google, it is no different to the P2P sharing of illegally copied MP3 tracks. Publishers lose sales, authors lose royalties. The truth is a little less dramatic, and as usual, it is those with a vested interest and rabid fears of losing market share that are creating the misdirection. Very few authors that I have spoken to actually give a damn about what Google are doing, especially when they have done the very basic levels of research required to unearth the truth. A truth that includes small details such as the fact that it is only the full text of out-of-copyright volumes that will be published, so only the publishing houses stand to lose money, not the author. A truth that includes larger details such as the fact that where a work does remain in copyright then Google is only publishing a short extract, a sentence or two wrapping contextually around the search terms, in much the same way that Amazon lets you read an extract, or a bookshop lets your browse. While the publishing giants would rather readers were doing this through them, not Google, and the bean counters sweat bullets about the lost advertising revenue opportunity, the author is once again forgotten.

Let me tell you, as an author, I am grateful for any exposure my work can get. I do not give a hoot where or how people are exposed to the book, as long as they are. Publishers, as I mentioned earlier, have long since given up spending any real money or making any real effort to get that exposure for us small fry writers. Our best hope now lies with the online world, with the likes of Google Book Search.

I admit that there is always the danger that Google might change its mind further down the road and trample upon copyright issues, right royally screwing over authors in the process. But hey, we are used to it, and to be honest it is no different to what the publishing giants have already done to us…

jwenting 1,889 duckman Team Colleague

I wonder how you'll feel when your sales plummet because the punters can now get your entire book online for free.

Your argument is the same as that used by the advocates of music and movie piracy who claim that it eventually leads to sales.
Problem is that for every extra sale you pick up you loose a thousand.

happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Team Colleague Featured Poster

I don't follow your argument at all. The whole point is that punters cannot get my entire book online for free, at least not via the Google Book Search project, becuase only excerpts would be available.

I am not advocating piracy in any shape nor form, and anyone scanning my book and then attempting to distribute it online wholesale would find themselves on the end of a legal pointy stick.

What I am saying is that exposure leads to sales, and the type of exposure that both Amazon and Google are suggesting for works that are in copyright is not the same as piracy by any measure.

My wrapping up para was meant to be making the light hearted point that yeah, sure, things could change and us authors might get screwed at some point in the future - but it would just be a different type of screwing to the one we are already getting.

One thing is for sure, publishing models are changing and will change, and copyright law is going to have to change at some point to keep pace. I am not saying that this is a good or bad thing, just an inevitable thing.

jwenting 1,889 duckman Team Colleague

no, they can only get excerpts with each request.
But someone (as with Google maps) will rapidly come with a system to get the entire book text out of there.

Google IS scanning your book and distributing it wholesale. By not taking action against them you're loosing any credibility to pursue others who do the same.
In fact those others will be able to point to Google and show that there's precedent that authors except their practices as perfectly valid.

You're delusional if you think this will bring you income, it will only cost you.
Maybe not immediately, but the value of the printed word will soon degrade to nothing as everyone can get the text of any printed book online at Google for free.

happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Team Colleague Featured Poster

I've been called delusional before :cheesy:

However, I think in this case you have allowed the Google red mist to descend and it is clouding your judgement. If someone did come up with such a system to extract the full text of a book from Google excerpts then I would expect action to be taken against that someone. If Google didn't take the necessary steps to prevent such an extraction, ditto. None of which changes the fact that Google isn't infringing my rights as stands.

What we should be debating, methinks, is how the publishing world is changing and how both technology and business models will impact upon current copyright legislation - and what should be done to allow publishing to move forward into this new digital age without bleeding authors dry.

Be a part of the DaniWeb community

We're a friendly, industry-focused community of developers, IT pros, digital marketers, and technology enthusiasts meeting, networking, learning, and sharing knowledge.