A Writer’s Plea: Figure Out How to Preserve Google Books

Author Alexis Madrigal posts this plea for Google Books on Wired's Epicenter blog and issues a challenge to libraries:

"The dispute over Google Books continues to rage in the courts and op-ed pages of the country. There are legitimate questions about Google, profit sharing and privacy. But let’s not let the litigation obscure that Google Books provides an unprecedented and irreproducible service to its users.

Libraries have been important for millennia because they could control access to valuable information. Now, that’s a strategy that leads straight to irrelevance.

A lot of smart librarians recognize the imperative of digitization but their institutions rarely give them money for such “low-priority” tasks."

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Google books and authors' rights

Sometimes I am astonished that although we have many examples of how royalties can be paid through the unions like SAG and AFTRA in the entertainment industry, nobody applies the same logic to books. Maybe what is really needed is an authors' union.

Why can't Google Books work out a formula to compensate publishers/authors?

I love Google Books but mainly because I can research and not have to buy anything - or travel to a library that will not have the book I need anyway, as it is out of print or costs too much to replace. Google is certainly tech-savvy enough to figure this one out. We all need to recognize, though, that they are doing the digitization at their own expense for the public good. What public good? Fewer trees cut down, less ink, less storage space needed with heating/cooling costs, etc.

It is still appropriate for Google to have a profit motive, and some form of compensation from the public side should go to them as long as they commit to keep the access free and public.

Or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

Elizabeth, the Clark County Diva

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