Valentine's Day Special: Cory Doctorow Loves Google Book Search


Cory Doctorow posted about why he loves Google book search:

The reality is that the biggest threat to book-writers and publishers is that their works are simply invisible to people who get all their information from the Internet. Google Book Search makes our books visible to those people. In so doing, Google will save our asses from oblivion.

He goes on to cite Tim O'Reily's Piracy is a form of Progressive Taxation. A while ago Cory also had a post about how to add value and distribution to one's printed works:

Today there's the explosion of choice brought on by the Internet. All entertainments are approximately one click away. The search-cost of finding another artist whose music or books or movies are as interesting as yours is dropping through the floor, thanks to recommendation systems, search engines, and innumerable fan-recommendation sites like blogs and MySpaces. Your virtuosity is matched by someone else's, somewhere, and if you're to compete successfully with her, you need something more than charisma and virtuosity.

You need conversation. In practically every field of artistic endeavor, we see success stories grounded in artists who engage in some form of conversation with their audience.

Somewhat related, but on another front, Jeremy Zawodny wrote about why Oracle is buying up many open source companies.


Spot on

I know Nick used to rail hard on Google's approach to this, and many others agreed with the railing, but I'll take Cory's side. I asked an author friend months ago about this, and she had the same reply -- it's another opportunity to get her book in front of people who may never see it otherwise. Her publishing company is one of the biggies who have fought Google on this, and she didn't care for that at all.

Photocopiers are great too.

I can photocopy her book and get it in front of more people too. Would she like that? It'd be for her own good, one of those people that I give a copy of her book to might turn around and buy a copy.

Telling authors that it's for their own good isn't a valid argument IMO. Some would disagree. In fact as a former online bookstore owner my experience has been that authors are in fact horrified at the idea of their books being available online.

I guess it all depends on

I guess it all depends on your intent with writing books. I would say over 90% of the people writing books are not doing so for the money, but for exposure.

I can confirm that some forms of piracy of my ebook have led to more sales of it.

I also think those looking to steal the information would be shitty customers I wouldn't want to have anyway. Why not allow them an alternate semi convenient route so you don't have to deal with all of them personally.

lets face it...

there is a significant possibility that books will go the way of the newspaper. Most people under a certain age don't read books or newspapers...all the reading they do is from the web. Publishers have no choice but to follow in some fashion.

People can download music free on the net, but the most stolen songs are usually also the best selling albums.

so the question is would authors prefer no one read their stuff, or would they take the "risk" of having people pirate their books in exchange for the chance to make a buck?


I can photocopy her book and get it in front of more people too. Would she like that?

My understanding of the system is that you cannot use Google Book Search to read an entire book, which would make your analogy pretty weak. I'm sure my author friend would love for you to photocopy one chapter of her book and stand on a busy street corner handing it out for free -- what's your address so she can mail you the photocopies?

If my understanding of Google's system is wrong, please disregard this reply. :-)

opt in

The default of google is scan and publish, some will defend it some will abhor it, if G were genuine in their "best interest of the publisher" bit the program would be solely opt in. Google has no particular insight into what is best for every publisher or author.

Whats so wrong with giving the publisher a choice?

Right now the only one we can agree on as being best served is google, not publishers or authors.

Whats so wrong with giving

Whats so wrong with giving the publisher a choice?

Publishers have the option to say no thanks.

If you look at one of the main points of Cory Doctorow's post it is that it is hard to determine who owns everything and the best way to contact them, etc.

it is hard to determine who

it is hard to determine who owns everything and the best way to contact them, etc.

You can't find me so you are entitled to my stuff? Quite a stretch IMHO. I hope I'm home when the guy with that tude knocks on the door.

A submission form

might work ;)

Google already lost the battle when they went "courtroom" on this, they are still a hearts and mind play, win the battle, lose the war. Lotsa folks saying "screw em".


>Publishers have the option to say no thanks.

Yeah, but even that contravenes basic copyright law. It should be Opt-IN, not opt-out. That legal hurdle needs to be overcome first before we get into the pros and cons of book promotion via Google Books.

It should be Opt-IN, not opt-out.

Isn't that how Amazon has it, where publishers need to contact them should they require more exposure?

Guess it is not that hard to implement...

Carrer Life-Cycle

Doctorow is right that obscurity is the biggest challenge facing new and mid-list fiction authors. Those authors probably have little to loose by allowing GBookgle to scan and allow searches of their books. Seems to me that it could serve as reader bait.

However, for a best selling fiction author, who is in high demand, there is very little incentive to make their content available for Google to use as an income stream for free unless you can prove that letting them copy your content will significantly improve sales.

Non-fiction is trickier still because one might be able to glean significant information (mathematical formulas or something) even from a sample without buying the book.

I've seen many a SEO lecture others about not basing their Web business model on free inclusion in search engines and that such an inclusion is not a right. I accept that. But I also say that Google is equally foolish to to base their book search and library business on the expectation that they can copy and use all that copyrighted, intellectual property for free and without prior permission. Furthermore, the use of that property is not a right, and I expect many of the rights holders will require Google to expunge any material from the index.

Finally there is just plain common courtesy, something the web has a bad track record on, even if everything will work out as wonderful as Google claims it will, it's still nice to be asked by someone before they borrow and copy your property.

re: Amazon

Isn't that how Amazon has it, where publishers need to contact them should they require more exposure?

I'm not 100% certain, GiladG, but I think I've read articles about publishers being angered that some of their books were available under Amazon's "Search Inside this Book" tool.

re: Amazon

According to this page it looks like an opt in option. I think it is more respectful and less arrogant approach to publishers.

My question is where do they stop? They keep on pulling the string to see how much they can get away with. Will music be next?

>>Will music be next? I

>>Will music be next?

I doubt it. The RIAA maintains that even ripping CD's that you legally own to your computer or iPod is not Fair Use so if Google tries it the RIAA will send their goons to start seizing servers at the Googleplex.

>> RIAA will send their goons...

So all it is, is that the music industry has a better support structure than the book publishing industry? Hey, let's all pick on the little guy, eh?

>>So all it is, I assume,

>>So all it is,

I assume, the same laws apply to music as to print copyright, but I'm not a lawyer. Maybe there is some legal hair splitting that I don't know about.

The big difference is the RIAA is already organized, in the field, and ready to pounce, whereas the print publishers are still milling about as a group undecided and whining. I've read news reports that say RIAA people have raided places with search warrants in bulletproof vests, combat fatigues and lots of guns to physically seize some guys Wal-mart box. I would think it very amusing if Google tries copying music and all of a sudden the RIAA shows up with an armed private army, and starts ripping out servers.

I doubt it will ever happen, but if such tactics can be used on individuals based only on an accusation it is theoretically possible they could also do it on the rich and powerful, however unlikely.

Still I don't see why the publishing industry cannot apply the same tactics the RIAA uses if they so choose. Keep in mind that there are some within the print publishing industry that have been infected with the same hysteria as the RIAA members and have made public statements saying they think selling used _print_ books should be illegal.

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