Using Google’s book search, you can search for a book, read details, and in many cases, read several pages of the book. This is a remarkable tool for those looking for hard to find titles and for just about any book lover. Until recently this book search was limited to books that are still published. However, what about books that are no longer published? These books may still be under copyright yet are no longer in print, making it difficult for the public to get their hands on them. Until now.

“Ever since Google began scanning printed books four years ago, scholars and others with specialized interests have been able to tap a trove of information that had been locked away on the dusty shelves of libraries and in antiquarian bookstores.”

This applies to currently in-print books. A settlement that took place in October, may breathe life back into many books that are no longer in-print. The settlement would allow for a greater collection of books to be searchable and read using Google’s book search- including many that are still under copyright. As well, this settlement would allow authors and publishers (as well as google) to make profit from digital versions of books:

“Revenue will be generated through advertising sales on pages where previews of scanned books appear, through subscriptions by libraries and others to a database of all the scanned books in Google’s collection, and through sales to consumers of digital access to copyrighted books. Google will take 37 percent of this revenue, leaving 63 percent for publishers and authors.”

How does all this connect to books that are no longer in print but are still under copyright? This settlement could allow out-of-print books to be born anew in digital format and at the same time allow authors to make money from titles that have been out-of-print for years. Currently, Google has scanned roughly 7 million books into digital format. Books that have been long out of reach (but not forgotten) may soon be available simply by doing a Google book search. Losing the traditional book format, these books will be available online for readers. This method may even help increase revenue due to the fact that the publishing cost will be eliminated. 

This all sounds great. Readers will be able to get their hands (or eyes) on out-of-print books: ” Google users will have an unprecedented ability to search (for free) and access (for a fee) books that formerly lived only in university libraries.” Authors and publishers will make a profit, and Google will continue to provide a wonderful service. Even the settlement itself seemed to allow a peaceful disagreement: 

“When the agreement was announced in October, all sides hailed it as a landmark settlement that permitted Google to proceed with its scanning project while protecting the rights and financial interests of authors and publishers. Both sides agreed to disagree on whether the book scanning itself violated authors’ and publishers’ copyrights.”

Some, librarians in particular, did express fears that as this service grows, Goggle may end up increasing subscription fees. Although there are other services available, none provide the assortment of books allowed by Google. Ever since Microsoft closed it’s doors on a similar book program, Google currently monopolizes the digital book search world.

Revenues generated from Google book search, may be small but are still noticeable.

“So far, publishers that have permitted Google to offer searchable digital versions of their new in-print books have seen a small payoff. Macmillan, the company that owns publishing houses including Farrar, Straus & Giroux and St. Martin’s Press and represents authors including Jonathan Franzen and Janet Evanovich, offers 11,000 titles for search on Google. In 2007, Macmillan estimated that Google helped sell about 16,400 copies.”

It might take a while before an author with an out-of-print book notices any sort of profit. Yet there is still another service that this settlement will allow. Maybe it’s not so much the monetary aspect that will make this service so remarkable, but the cultural impact it will have. As this new service continues and expands, hopefully many titles, especially out-of-print Spanish titles will become accessible to those seeking to open a book that no longer exists.

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