Friday, September 11, 2009
More on Google Book Settlement
Google Tells Congress They'll Let Anyone Sell Settlement Books
(How nice of them.)
(That light at the end of the digital settlement trial is a train coming, publishers.)
Google svp and chief legal officer announced before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday (in parallel with a posting on the company's public policy blog) "that for the out-of-print books being made available through the Google Books settlement, we will let any book retailer sell access to those books. Google will host the digital books online, and retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore will be able to sell access to users on any Internet-connected device they choose. Retailers can also pursue their own digitization efforts of out-of-print books in parallel. In essence, this extends our initiative announced earlier this summer -- which allows publishers in our Partner Program to market their in-print works through Google Books -- to out-of-print books included in the settlement."
The WSJ and NYT had brief follow-up interviews with Drummond and came away with the vaguest descriptions of the revenue splits on such an arrangement: Retailers could get the "majority" and/or "much" of the proceeds with Google keeping "only a small slice" as the papers describe it. That's about as clear as the revenue splits as expressed so far for the retailers Google wants to enlist in their Edition program for in-print electronic books.
Drummond also indicates to the Times that Google is "thinking about how to make those books available to others in bulk, in case any were interested in selling subscriptions to libraries." He said, "If people really want to get access to orphan books that we have, they can do it." And he tells the WSJ that the new announcement "should put to rest concerns that 'Google and only Google will have the ability to get the full portfolio' of digital works."
Indeed it's a pretty clever way of blunting arguments that the settlement is anti-competitive and provides Google a de facto monopoly on the sale of orphan works, while not actually making Google's major competitors happy. The testimony mentions "retailers such as Amazon [and] Barnes & Noble" but neither of those companies currently partner with Google Book Search on any of their other initiatives.
As Amazon vp for global public policy Paul Misener (who also testified at yesterday's committee hearing) said, "We don't need anyone between us and rights holders."
P.S. If a book is out of print, and an author manages to convince a publisher to reprint it, I am still unclear how Google's scanning and dissemination will impact that event.