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October 18, 2005

Hooray for Google Print!

Eric Schmidt talks about Google Print--a magnificent endeavor:

Books of Revelation, by Eric Schmidt: Imagine sitting at your computer and, in less than a second, searching the full text of every book ever written. Imagine an historian being able to instantly find every book that mentions the Battle of Algiers. Imagine a high school student in Bangladesh discovering an out-of-print author held only in a library in Ann Arbor. Imagine one giant electronic card catalog that makes all the world's books discoverable with just a few keystrokes by anyone, anywhere, anytime. That's the vision behind Google Print, a program we introduced last fall....

Google's job is to help people find information. Google Print's job is to make it easier for people to find books.... For many books, these results will, like an ordinary card catalog, contain basic bibliographic information and, at most, a few lines of text where your search terms appear. We show more than this basic information only if a book is in the public domain, or if the copyright owner has explicitly allowed it by adding this title to the Publisher Program... Any copyright holder can easily exclude their titles from Google Print -- no lawsuit is required....

Just as any Web site owner who doesn't want to be included in our main search index is welcome to exclude pages from his site, copyright-holders are free to send us a list of titles that they don't want included in the Google Print index. For some, this isn't enough.... [W]e believe... that the use we make of books we scan... is consistent with the Copyright Act, whose "fair use"... allows a wide range of activity... all without copyright-holder permission.... The aim of the Copyright Act is to protect and enhance the value of creative works in order to encourage more of them... We find it difficult to believe that authors will stop writing books because Google Print makes them easier to find, or that publishers will stop selling books because Google Print might increase their sales....

Imagine the cultural impact of putting tens of millions of previously inaccessible volumes into one vast index... searchable by anyone, rich and poor, urban and rural, First World and Third, en toute langue ... entirely for free. How many users will find, and then buy, books they never could have discovered any other way? How many out-of-print and backlist titles will find new and renewed sales life? How many future authors will make a living... solely because the Internet has made it so much easier for a scattered audience to find them? This egalitarianism of information dispersal is precisely what the Web is best at; precisely what leads to powerful new business models for the creative community; precisely what copyright law is ultimately intended to support; and, together with our partners, precisely what we hope, and expect, to accomplish with Google Print.

Posted by DeLong at October 18, 2005 04:07 PM