Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The New Rumpelstiltskin: Google Books; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/21/09

Michelle Richmond via San Francisco Chronicle; The New Rumpelstiltskin: Google Books:

"There's a new Rumpelstiltskin in town, but he's not going after the miller's daughter. This Rumpelstiltskin has set his sights on authors, who, according to critics, may unwittingly spin him buckets full of gold. Judging from the panic issuing from home offices and cafes across the country, you'd think he was trying to steal our firstborn.

I'm talking about Google Books, and a deal negotiated between the Internet giant and the Authors Guild: the Google Books Settlement.

Maggie Shiels of the BBC writes today about the late but noisy outcry from Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon, who protest the settlement on the grounds that it constitutes a monopoly on digitization of books. The naysayers in the Internet industry have a point, not to mention an enormous stake in the matter. But coming purely from an author's perspective, I feel quite a bit less alarmed than some of my colleagues.
I'm of a mind to believe that the settlement may actually be advantageous for authors. For one thing, we write books in the hopes that they will be read....

There's a wee bit of money involved, but not enough, at the outset, to be a determining factor unless you're truly a starving artist. Each author will get anywhere from $60 to $300 per book that was scanned by Google without authorization. That's enough to buy a few reams of paper or a nice bottle of Scotch, but not much else. In the future, authors will share with publishers 67% of the profits gleaned from digitization of their books, with 33% going to Google (therein the spun gold). Profits will presumably come from ads listed beside any page of a book, as well as from purchases of digital copies of the book--if the author chooses to allow this type of purchase. Ultimately, this could turn out to be a lot of money, but again, it's too early to tell.

That's really not so scary, is it? Of course, Rumpelstiltskin didn't appear scary either, when he first appeared to the miller's daughter, offering to help her spin gold for the king. It wasn't until later that he showed his true colors, and tried to make off with her baby."

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