Friday, November 04, 2005

Big Day in Publishing News

Lots of publishing news on November 3: An announcement by Google and press releases from and Random House.

Google had been scheduled to resume its library scanning project on November 1. Instead, Google Print announced on Thursday that they would focus on more public domain and out-of-print books rather than books still under copyright.

Google Print is now live ( You can enter the name of an author (or a book) and pull up available works. The theory is that, if the work is no longer under copyright, you can pull up the entire book. If the work is still under copyright, you can pull up a sample excerpt (permissible under copyright laws).

To test the system, I requested "Little Women." I was advised that the book was provided by Signet Classics through the Google Print Publishing Program. Clicking on copyright, I found there was an Afterword copyrighted by Susan Straight in 2004. There were links to purchase the work through, B&N, Froogle, BookSense and Penguin. This stopped me. Penguin is one of the five publishers who sued Google on October 19, requesting a permanent injunction to stop the library scanning project. However, here they were, providing the book to Google Print.

When I tried to pull up a sample excerpt, I was asked for my email address and my Google password. Apparently, you need a Google account to access requested material.

In other news, Amazon announced two programs. The first, Amazon Pages "will 'un-bundle' . . . buying and reading a book so that customers can simply and inexpensively purchase and read online just the pages they need. For example, an entrepreneur interested in marketing his or her business could purchase the relevant chapters from several best-selling business books.

The second program, Amazon Upgrade, will allow customers to 'upgrade' their purchase of a physical book on to include complete online access." My first thought was that I could start cleaning out bookshelves and build a virtual library instead.

Holtzbrinck Publishers (one of the seven big New York publishing houses) said in the Amazon release that "it is important for the publishing community to explore new business models for digital delivery that compensate publishers and authors fairly. We look forward to working together with Amazon as they develop these innovative new programs to expand the market for digital content."

According to Publishers Lunch, Google responded to the Amazon announcement by saying, "Amazon is a 'valued partner' of Google Print and 'We're glad users will have additional ways to access the books they find on Google Print.'"

Finally, Random House (a division of Bertelsmann and another of the seven big New York publishing houses), in an eerily similar press release to the Amazon one, announced "its intent to work with online booksellers, search engines, entertainment portals and other appropriate vendors to offer the contents of its books to consumers for online viewing on a pay-per-page-view basis." They went on to say that, while readers are demanding more digital access, publishers and authors must be compensated appropriately. Free sample excerpts will be permitted with a 4 cents per page charge for every page after the free sample.

When Google first announced their book scanning project, the publishing industry screamed loud and hard. Now it looks like everyone is trying to position themselves to benefit from similar programs.

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