The Google battle

In early 2010 Google suggested that there were 129,864,880 unique books in the world and said that it intends to scan all of them by the end of the decade.

On October 14, 2010 Google it said that it had scanned over 15 million – mostly works that are no longer in print or commercially available.

Was this the end of books in print?

Actually no, because the issue of the public domain is the key one that limits what Google does with books and really is the issue of why books are kept in print.  Authors need their reward for writing, and so copyright rules are there to protect them.  The whole area is a legal minefield.

In fact, in 2005 two lawsuits against Google suggested the company had not respected copyright issues – and the case dragged on for years.  Google said it would introduce a program to allow publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google.  Some agreements were reached.

Then Google eBooks was launched to offer universal access and non-restrictive copying – to people in the US only.  Books can be read online or downloaded to a cache for offline reading.   But those using the service said it was difficult, that even the very old books lacked reviews and that searching for books was difficult.  No one was very happy except maybe Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and other electronic book stores.

Meanwhile back in the courts, in March 2011 a federal judge rejected the settlement between the publishing industry and Google, and various court cases for wholesale copyright infringement continued with publishers maintaining that Google has no right to copy full text of books with copyrights and save them into its own database.

In 2009, the Paris Civil Court awarded €300,000 in damages and interest and ordered Google to pay €10,000 a day until it removed the publisher’s books from its database.  Google is appealing.

On March 22, 2011, a US course also rejected a revised settlement agreement with publishers.

So the battle goes on.  At the moment visitors to Google Books can view about a couple of million out-of-copyright books and long previews of another two million books under agreements between Google and tens of thousands of publishers.  Millions more books that are in copyright but out of print are currently available in Google Books in a shorter ‘snippet view.’

The case continues, and it seems that digitization of books is a long, long way off.  Which is why we still have paper books, and why authors’ manuscripts and copies of books are stored in our warehouses along with legal documents and in fact anything else that people want.

There’s more information on our storage solutions on our website, alternatively give us a call on 0800 783 9516.


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