I’ve read a fair amount about the Google Book settlement, but I haven’t seen a more helpful explanation than Annalee Newitz’s “5 Ways The Google Book Settlement Will Change The Future of Reading.” After a history of how the settlement came about, she discusses it under the following headings:
1. It may become harder to get information online about books from writers you love.
2. You will find yourself reading free books online, by authors who have disappeared. And Google will make money when you do.
3. Google will be competing with Apple and Amazon and everybody else to be your favorite online bookseller.
4. Libraries and bookstores will be the same thing.
5. Pulp science fiction will make a comeback in ways you might not expect.
Her conclusion:

We can once again have access to weird, unusual stories that are both awesome and not sustainable under publishing’s current blockbuster model. Writers of small and midlist SF books could start making money on their writing again. This is a good thing for authors and readers who love imaginative fiction.
I want to live in a future where I can find the lesbian alien “Journey To My Tentacle Cave” series on the shelves next to Stephenie Meyer’s latest celebration of vampire celibacy – and one click away from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. That is a future of economically-sustainable openness in the stacks. And I think, with careful regulation, the GBS could be the first shaky step on the road that will take us there.

I’m sure some of you know a lot more about this than I do and have thought more about it; I’ll be glad to hear your reactions.


  1. There’s one thing I don’t like about Google books: in some cases, library books have been scanned rather poorly, which means it’s sometimes difficult to read them. Google is putting a lot of effort into this, but maybe they’ve been applying scanning techniques that will probably look quite obsolete in a few years. One example: How useful is a scanned scholarly book without the possibility of searching for words in the text?

  2. I totally agree, and I’ve sounded off about the deficiencies of Google Books more than once (see here, for example).

  3. As has been pointed out here and elsewhere, the quality of Google scans and metadata is appalling. And why can’t I download books that are out of copyright? Why are many books on as a DJVU (meaning that they are free of copyright), but on googlebooks all I get is “snippet view”? As part of any settlement, Google should be required to really provide access to books when there’s no legal obstacle.

  4. I see you live in “.ja”, that is why you only get a snippet view. Once again, let me paste Dr Kehoe’s instructions for those of us who don’t live in the US. You need a “US proxy server” if you want to read the whole thing:
    What you need to do to read the book, if you’re not in the US, is:
    1. Go to the page with the list of proxies ( 
2. Pick one of the US proxies, in our case, let’s say, 
3. Enter the URL of my link above where it say “Enter the URL address”
4. Click “Surf Now!”
    That gives a version of the Google page where you can read the book or download it as a PDF.
    Posted by Aidan Kehoe at October 23, 2009 02:05 PM
    Posted by Aidan Kehoe at October 23, 2009 02:05 PM
    Upps, there’s an “ideal” too many there.
    Posted by Aidan Kehoe at October 23, 2009 02:06 PM

  5. Unfortunately, plenty of books available in DJVU are not out of copyright, and the same is true of most other sources of supposedly freely a available content. What is more, Google merges hundreds of metadata sources and takes the most conservative (= newest) assumption about dates; it can’t afford not to, what with potential statutory penalties of US$150,000 per copy. Even if a book was written in 1848, if the scanned copy was from a 1950 edition it may well contain some additional content which got scanned as well, and so the work as a whole has to be treated as a 1950 work.

  6. Although you must admit the words “Google and “can’t afford” look odd in the same sentence.

  7. I suspect it’s more the reputation hit than the money.

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