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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Printing Google

If anyone is following the Google Print story, you probably know 2 things:
  1. Google is trying to index a whole lot of books (eventually all of them)
  2. (some) publishers are pissed.


Larry Lessig gives the best argument I've heard yet for why the publishers are being stupid.

Google isn't copying books, they're indexing them. This is no different from what they do to web pages (which are all copyrighted), its simply a new medium. Producing an excerpt of a book from a search is no different from writing a book review and inserting a passage. Fair use. Not copyright infringement.

Finally Google has to (and can) store a copy of the book for indexing purposes. When you search for web sites in Google, they don't spend hours crawling every page for your results. Instead, they have to store a local copy to make the search useful. Same with books. They can't send armies of readers off to run through libraries every time you search. Instead they have to store a copy. They aren't giving you a copy (which would be infringement), just giving you pointers. It is up to you to get the book, and once you know about it, you are infinitely more likely to buy it.

Update: 12:00
I got lost in my initial rant that I forgot my main point. (this is why I have many posts that remain unpublished...)

The important thing to note is that nothing is stopping any other company from duplicating Google's efforts. Google only has a monopoly on print searching because they are the only ones doing it (Microsoft is doing some print work, but at a much smaller scale). Google is raising the bar, but there is room for imitators (see Yahoo Maps beta). This is a good thing as it makes information more available to everyone. The complaining publishers need to realize that Google is merely filling a void that the publishers have ignored.

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