Tuesday, October 28, 2008

now what are they up to?

Just announced was Google's new deal with publishers and authors for in-copyright and/or out-of-print books. This from the Association of American Publishers and this from Google Central. I like Google as much as the next person but I'm starting to feel like they're Microsoft. 

Is there a competitor? 

At this year's annual NDNP gathering, we talked a lot about the shrinking number of vendors who can meet (or are willing to meet) the NDNP spec. That narrowing margin is making some of us uncomfortable, and understandably so - whatever vendor is left standing can basically call the shots (not that they would but history suggests this could happen). Drawing on my limited knowledge of market lingo, competition is the market's brand of a check and balance system. Without that, who's looking after the consumer?

The first thing that popped into my mind about this new deal was: Knowing that everyone wants digital access means libraries will pay for some goods twice. That could solve a lot of problems, certainly, but it also means someone besides the library is storing what we've paid for and... oh wait, this is starting to sound like journals! There are libraries with obsolete formats that nothing can read anymore because of this behavior...how nice for everyone. Need I go on?

If Google has no competitor for book digitization, then who is going to compete with them on the more tenacious formats like newspapers or A/V? There's NDNP, sure, but at only 100,000 pages in two years from each of us, we can't compete with the volume Google can afford to produce. Forget quality and preservation for now, users want access and they're not going to consider the preservation and quality and, of course, they think Google is all that and a bag of Doritos! They couldn't possible botch this.

Plus, with this new agreement is born the book equivalent of the ASCAP and BMI of music royalty overseers. The Books Rights Registry, they're calling it.  So, now I'm thinking: Where does this stop?

Maybe it's not as much a monopoly as it seems. If you can make me feel better about Gargantuan Google, I'm listening!

....Oh, I'll have more to say about Google and newspapers later- thanks to all your comments, keep 'em coming (I promise they'll post much faster from now on).

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