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The Google Book Settlement - Theft or Gift?
THEFT OR GIFT?
As an author who will publish a textbook later this year, I was incensed when I realised that Google intend to take my book and to sell copies without my permission. I had written in my chapter on intellectual property that responses to breaches of intellectual property were frequently emotional – when I realised Google were going to steal my book I got really cross!
IS IT MUGGING?
Having read the settlement reached and the current arrangements I am still a bit cross. If someone accosts you in an alley, grabs your coat, and stuffs bank notes into the pocket, you will feel an emotional violation. As you count the bank notes, your feelings of emotional violation persist. If there are enough bank notes, most people will loiter by the alley in hopes it happens again.
THE GOOGLE BOOK SETTLEMENT
The first bit of anger is that Google are going to sell copies of my book without asking me. That is an enormous breach of my copyright. The copying onto their database is a breach of copyright - even before they show it to anyone else.
There is a facility where I can register with Google that they are not to copy my book. I do not have to register with the local hoodlums that they are not to rob me – why do I have to register with Google? On the other hand, at least they are providing a facility whereby I can opt out.
On the positive side, what are Google giving me? If someone taps in “carton sizes”, they will get about three sentences of my chapter on carton sizes. I can opt to allow a longer extract if I wish. There will be a facility for the reader to download the entire book or to order the hardback. I can set my own price, or I can in default have the price set by Google’s algorithm, which is intended to maximise my profit. I may for my own commercial reasons need to maintain a minimum price for the book.
Google say that I will sell more books, and some publishers have quotes on the Google website confirming that their sales have increased significantly.
As a self –publisher I have the problem of obtaining exposure for my book. The Google arrangement reduces that problem significantly. It is a huge marketing help.
There is also a facility for university libraries to join in so their students can access my book – and any competing books. The subscriptions the libraries pay are divided out among the authors.
How much “cut” do Google take? Apparently none, but of course bookshops will advertise on the pages and we all know that is worth money. On the other hand, that is not money coming from me.
There is an argument that this deal gives Google a monopoly on knowledge. Google have been in hot water before over some of their activities, and the American justice system seems to be able to keep them in check. The American Justice Department is watching Google, and hopefully will intervene if Google abuses the monopoly.
As an author I can opt out. Or I can opt in and thank Google for the free marketing help. Decisions! Decisions!
If someone offered me this facility for free I would fall on their neck and thank them. I think "thank you" is appropriate. I still feel a bit aggreived, but if money does come in I expect I will come round.
I do not believe in Santa. I am a bit dubious about any company who give me something for free.