By Juliana Adelman
So Google Book Search inches closer to world domination. The deadline for authors to opt out of its settlement (made in the US but applicable worldwide) is September 4th. Is it the best thing to happen to publishing since Gutenberg or a nasty corporation’s way to squeeze authors and libraries? I’m really not sure myself. I wrote previously on the settlement on this blog and how it did not seem to be generating significant interest or debate in Ireland despite the fact that all Irish authors and publishers will be affected by it. And here we are, with only days til the deadline and still with almost no discussion. In a new and ironic twist, Microsoft and Amazon have joined forces with some author and publishing groups in a class action lawsuit to prevent Google from developing a monopoly. A recent article in Vanity Fair highlights the legal complexity of the settlement and the confusion of authors over what to do. I think this could go on for a very very long time. I don’t have the legal expertise to spell out the consequences for all stakeholders, nor is a blog probably the place to do so. Since I last posted on this topic I’ve discovered the American Library Association’s ‘Super Simple Summary‘. Not quite as simple as advertised, but definitely better than the actual document which is, to my tiny mind, impossible. It spells out most of the implications for libraries, which are generally as valid here as they are in the US. The big concern for libraries is the cost of this search engine once it becomes available and the fact that Google will have a monopoly on such a facility enabling it to charge whatever it likes. Oxford University Press is one of few (the only?) publishers to make a public statement on the subject. OUP’s US division came out in support of GBS in June of this year. You can read the president’s statement here. Basically, he thinks electronic publishing is the way forward and we have to face facts that undergraduates now use the internet as their primary source of information. In his view, the information should be as complete as possible. So what are the implications as an author or potential author? Well there are implications for access and money. If you’ve published a book, or an essay in a book, before 5 January of this year and have not opted out of the settlement then you are in. This means Google will pay you $60 for your book plus a percentage (63%) of revenue generated from your book. This will include not just downloading the book, but revenue generated from advertisements surrounding your book, etc. You have to claim this money by registering your works with the Book Rights Registry. In return, you abdicate the right to sue Google or take part in a class action lawsuit. If you opt out, then Google will not make your book digitally available and you can sue them if they do. So, are you in or out?