Wednesday, September 2, 2009

O'Brien: Scrap Google book settlement and start fresh; San Jose Mercury News, 9/2/09

Chris O'Brien via San Jose Mercury News; Scrap Google book settlement and start fresh:

"At first blush, Google's plan to digitize millions of books seemed like a grand idea, opening up the world's libraries to readers everywhere.

Unfortunately, Google's effort has been clumsy from the start. The Mountain View company bulldozed into the effort in 2005 without building consensus around its plans, and then acted surprised when its motives were questioned.

The result was years of litigation and a proposed settlement that has only antagonized critics.
By Friday, authors need to decide whether they want to accept that settlement or opt out and reserve their right to sue Google.

But before then, I think Google should scrap the whole thing and go back to square one.

The proposed settlement has the potential for creating the framework for how books are digitized for the next century. The stakes for readers, authors and libraries are high

Unfortunately, many on the outside of this process looking in feel like Google's been throwing its weight around on this issue. Google didn't exactly help matters in this regard when a spokesman was quoted on a Wall Street Journal blog calling one opposition group the "Sour Grapes Alliance." Gee, I wonder why some folks think Google can be arrogant?

It's a shame that it's come to this, because of the amazing potential behind this idea...

No doubt the idea of starting again will elicit groans from the Googleplex. Four years of litigation probably feels like an eternity for a 10-year-old company that's used to moving at Internet speed.

But it's the kind of goodwill gesture that would go a long way toward diffusing the mounting frustration among critics and begin laying the groundwork toward an equitable solution. If Google's motives are true, and I believe they are, then patience is the best course.

It's far more important to get it right than to get it done."

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