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Publishers are sounding more like spoiled children when someone picks up a toy they weren’t playing with than people who care about books.

Google Print: Latest Innovation From Search Engine Giant

Google is once again proving itself an innovator as a provider of online search services. This time they have extended their reach off-line into the card catalogues and stacks of libraries and the inventories of publishers all over the world. The creation of Google Print will allow for the quick retrieval of all information pertinent to almost any publication in the world.

Once you open the Google Print search page, you are given access to two programs. Google Print Publisher Program allows publishers and authors to submit publications for listing. If the title you are searching for is in that database you will be directed to a page containing its submitted information. You will be given the choice of either examining a couple of pages from the text and availability information, or short excerpts plus information.

If the book your searching for is in a library, the Google Print Library Project will provide your results. If the book is no longer copyrighted, you will be free to browse through the complete text at your leisure. Otherwise, only information similar to the publishing program will be available. The only difference being that instead of the option to buy, you will be able to enter your zip code to ascertain the location of a library near by where you can obtain a copy.

Of course, as this is Google, you will also be offered a number of related search options: find reviews, other web sites related to the book, information about the publisher, or even refine your original search to find passages that link to other pages in the book.

As a research tool, this will prove invaluable for people developing a bibliographic database prior to beginning a project. Simply enter your topic keywords and any book whose content matches that subject will be called up from either program. Imagine how quickly you will be able to develop a listing of books most appropriate for your work.

It seems that some people aren’t happy about this program. According to this article in Publishers Weekly publishers have got their knickers in a twist over the copyright implications and the manner in which Google is creating its data base for Google Print Library Program.

Publishers are upset that in creating the catalogue for the Library’s program that they were not consulted about the process and that they have to inform Google if they would like books withdrawn from the Library. Why they object to a book’s inclusion in the library in the first place seems a little weak to me, but according to the article here’s their reasoning:

The publishers feel that Google’s publishing of snippets of information from the books without consent will lead to book piracy and even worse will create a precedent for this type of activity. It really sounds like a case of having their noses put out of joint more than anything else. Places like Amazon are loaded with excerpts from books that publishers have supplied. ”

The question is really do we have control,” an unnamed source in the publishing industry is quoted as saying. (It’s easy to tell who butters Publishers Weekly’s bread when they refer to this person as an activist.) In other words, they don’t care about the quotes appearing, what they care about is they don’t have any say in the matter.

Maybe Google overstepped its authority on this one, but look at from their point of view. How many of these books are even still covered by copyright? Unlike the Publishers Program that only has submitted works, they will be listing millions of books in this database.

Can you imagine the nightmare of requesting approval for all citations on this scale? Do publishers really want to wade through their entire back catalogues, dating back in some instances over a hundred years, to search out snippets they feel are appropriate for free perusal? I think not.

You would think that publishers would welcome this attempt by Google to increase people’s awareness and access to the written word. They claim to represent the best interests of authors and writing.

They go to great lengths to convince the public that they are concerned with literacy through the development of a superficial project like the Quills Awards, yet raise objections when something meaningful like the Library program comes along. They are sounding more like spoiled children when someone picks up a toy they weren’t playing with than people who care about books.

As a writer, I think it would be wonderful that someone gets another opportunity to examine my work. Currently I rotate samples of poetry, extracted from books I have for sale, on my web site, hoping it will encourage people to buy the damn thing. Anybody who is providing this service free of charge to authors should be given a medal not crapped on.

“I was a little surprised by the reaction to Google Print for libraries,” given its potential impact. “We feel that we’re constructing a program that provides benefits to publishers at no cost and that it will really aid in discovery and increase usage and sales.” Adam Smith senior business product manager for Google Product and Google Scholar in Publishers Weekly

Mr. Smith is being far more polite than I think I could have been in his reaction to the behaviour of the publishing industry. Is it any wonder that hardly anyone reads anymore? Publishers seem more intent on protecting their turf than letting anybody know anything about the books they publish.

Congratulations are in order to the people over at Google for providing this great service for authors, the reading public, and scholars alike. I know that I’m going to scurry over and see if they’ll accept my humble submissions of two books of poetry. It may be the best chance I have of someone ever reading one of the damn things.

Edit/Published: BMcK

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.

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