Google Wants All Books

Silicon Valley giant goes to great lengths to digitize books

By Sajid Farooq
|  Thursday, Mar 5, 2009  |  Updated 11:47 AM CDT
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Google Wants All  Books

If Google has its way, books may become a thing of the past.

Apparently it wasn't enough for Google to lend a major hand in taking out newspapers across the country but now the Silicon Valley giant wants to shut down your local library, bookstore and Amazon.com while they are at it.

Our friends at the New York Times, who are one of the major papers rumored to be looking for a new financially model, took an in depth look Wednesday at Google's seemingly innocuous attempt to scan and put every book ever published in every language in every country in history in the whole wide world on the Internet.

The idea actually sounds absurd on the surface because of the magnanimity of it but it is hard to put anything past Google based on the scope of a project alone.

Google recently settled a class action lawsuit with a group of authors and publishers who claimed the plan to digitize books would violate their copyrights. The simple translation of the lawsuit was the writers wanted to be shown the money.

In good Google fashion, the search engine company flashed 125 million green George Washingtons and agreed to charge on line readers to browse the copyrighted material, with part of the profits going to writers and authors.

And being the nice corporate giants that they are, Google also offered to fork over an initial flat fee for the initial scanning of each book, and authors and publishers could also opt to not have their books hit Google's digital shelves.

But the promise of money was not enough for the judge who mediated the settlement, who of course was not going to get paid. The judge ordered that Google must make an effort to contact the author or copyright holder of every book they plan to digitize.

Here comes the amazing part of the story. (No, digitizing every book ever written is not that amazing when you read what's coming next).

Google is spending millions upon millions to conduct a direct-mail campaign to reach copyright owners, they have created a Web site about the settlement in 36 languages,  and, get this, they are spending about $7 million in advertising in newspapers, magazines, journals, and more across the world trying to find copyright holders and give them their money. I guess they are actually helping out the print industry a little bit after all.

They are running at least one ad in every country in the world according to the New York Times, which says this is "among the largest print legal-notice campaigns in history." Amazing.

The paper reports that "more than 200 advertisements have run in more than 70 languages" in "places like Fiji, Greenland, the Falkland Islands, and the Micronesian island of Niue (the name is roughly translated as Behold the Coconut!), which has one newspaper."

And a fair warning to all small time publishers out there in obscure countries. Don't be like John Woods, who thought he had received a prank letter when he got Google's notice that they wanted to advertise in his paper, The Cook Islands News in the South Pacific, with a circulation of 2,500.

“We were amazed — it came from out of nowhere,” the newspaper’s editor, John Woods told the New York Times. “We are very skeptical of ads like that.”

The project is not going to be easy either, according to Kathy Kinsella of Kinsella Media in Washington, who is heading the effort for Google.

“We looked at how many books were published in various areas,” she told the New York Times, “and we knew from the plaintiffs and Google that 30 percent were published in the U.S., 30 percent in industrialized countries. The rest of the world is the rest.”

Good luck to you Google in your never ending campaign to take over the world.

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