Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Google brings dead books back into being;, 8/27/09

Bill Echikson via; Google brings dead books back into being:

OPINION: FOURTEEN YEARS ago, I published a book called Burgundy Stars: a Year in the Life of a Great French Restaurant . Despite warm reviews, sales were tepid and it soon went out of print. Today, you have to either go to the library and hope my take on haute cuisine is stocked or search in used book shops. I have moved on to work for Google and my book remains in copyright but almost impossible to find, writes BILL ECHIKSON...

For in-copyright books, services like Google Book Search or Amazon’s Look Inside the Book partner with publishers who provide us with their books, which we scan and put online with a limited preview of the text. Readers gain a good idea of the content of the book and get information on where to purchase or borrow the book. All told, some 25,000 publishers have signed up to participate in Book Search’s Partner Programme, contributing over one million books.

Books which are in copyright but out of print are the trickiest category, and the one that makes up the vast majority.

The agreement announced in October 2008 between Google and a broad class of copyright holders in the US will dramatically expand access to out-of-print books, creating new revenue opportunities for authors and publishers. The new registry should help reduce the number of in-copyright works whose owners cannot be identified or found because authors will have a concrete economic incentive to come forward, claim their works and then earn money. For books that are in-print, the agreement would offer new distribution opportunities to copyright holders in the US.

What does this breakthrough mean for Europe? Unfortunately, little. International authors and publishers whose books have been scanned from an American library may benefit from the new revenue that will come as American readers discover and purchase their books. They can register with the new registry to control and profit from online access to their books, or, just like American authors, they can choose to opt out.

The registry will also benefit rightsholders by helping potential licensers for Europe reach out to rightsholders and negotiate agreements to license works in the EU. But no readers outside of the US will reap the benefits American readers will see – because the agreement is under US law, it can only govern what happens within the US.

The European handwringing over this project seems out of place. I have not made a cent on Burgundy Stars since publication. Under the new Google deal, I may finally get some further value from my copyright. I look forward to the time when readers have a chance to rediscover my long lost book and I would love not only for Americans to receive this opportunity, but for readers around the world, too.

Bill Echikson is author of four books and senior manager of European communications in Google"

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