4 11 2005

Reining in Google — The Washington Times

What a terrible Op-Ed! I don’t need to rant and rave about this one because so many already have. Just see Forbes and Classical Values. But I do have the special privilege of printing a response sent to Mr. Barr and Ms. Schroeder by one of my good friends, Bernie…and he got a response. Here is the exchange, unedited:

Dear Mrs. Shroeder and Mr. Barr,

I appreciate the fervor with which you write, but I must take issue with your Chicken Little approach to this issue. It seems that your fear of technology drives you to preach an unwarranted apocalyptic message to the people and politicians in America. The publishing industry is, indeed, not in danger of falling.

Google Print provides a real and lasting benefit to society, and Google makes some money in the process. This “internet behemoth” (to use your words), Google, saw a way to make information that has always been available, freely, through libraries, more accessible. If you have ever used Google Print, you would know that copyrighted materials only display a few pages, sometimes less, before the content on the preceding and following pages is blocked – therefore, the public is only receiving excerpts of copyrighted material free of charge.

Now, I could go to my local library and get the same content for free. If my library doesn’t have the book, I can surely request a copy via inter-library loan, and within a week or two, I will have the book. In the case of the local library, I get the entire content without paying.

Google simplifies a process that was once cumbersome – but with materials available from Google Print, since copyrighted materials are only available as excerpts, I get less than I would from the local library.

I find it hard to imagine that Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson, both authors, would have decried the introduction of inter-library loan or even the prevalence of modern public libraries that extend to the community outside of academia. Both of these “modern concepts” are only available due to technological innovation (rapid transit / efficient postal systems and modern, inexpensive printing techniques).

I will gladly purchase a hard-copy of any book that will prove to be a valuable resource and addition to my library. But, some concerning books that contain a paragraph or a chapter that I find relevant and/or interesting, I will not purchase physical copies of them. I will either find it in a library or use an available copy online. I think that most users of electronic media will agree.

Regarding your assertion that authors are somehow not smart enough to utilize an “opt-out” service provided by Google, then you are insulting the intelligence of the authors you claim to represent. If Google manages to make the opt-out tool too cumbersome to use, and therefore useless, then you might have a firm legal case against Google. But, I trust that Google is not “out to get” the poor little authors out there.

It is sad to see that the publishing industry, instead of thinking outside the box and looking at new paradigms for revenue generation, is following the path of Hollywood and the music industry. Trying to fight the emergence of electronic media with reactionary legislation is not a sustainable approach. Follow, rather, the lead of Apple who has proven that people will, and do, pay for electronic media if it is comparable to what they get in the stores. I will gladly pay for the three songs I like on an album if I am allowed to download them individually (Apple’s model), but I will no longer pay for an entire album that is full of music for which I don’t care. The world is changing, and it is time to change with the world instead of burying our heads in the sand.

And, for what it is worth, people who avidly read books are, at present, unwilling to resort to electronic books because they are 1) more cumbersome to read, 2) difficult to mark, 3) hard to loan to friends of like mind and 4) simply not as enjoyable to read by the fireplace. If the publishing industry will find a way to address these concerns, then the world will widely and willingly adopt a fee-based electronic book model. If these obstacles are insurmountable, then the paper book will always be around. Some lackluster authors might need to find alternative employment, but the paper book is likely here to stay (my belief).

Finally, your reactionary posture might have caused you to miss an opportunity for collaboration. Google currently links to Amazon.com and other online booksellers (with a direct link to the work in question) on left side of every visible scanned page on Google Print. I’m sure that this has increased sales of worthy books. If the publishing industry would focus on the production of quality literature, the online sales will likely soar because of Google Print, not in spite of it. Might authors who write non-fiction, for instance, find Google Print to be a valuable resource – making the quality of the books they produce superior to those produced in the past (with outdated research techniques). Did you ever think of the fact that Google might be willing to provide a premium and paid version of Google print that might provide an additional source of revenue (through profit sharing) for struggling authors who “opt-in?” Have you considered the fact that Google might be a potential ally to the publishing industry?

In the end, I appreciate the publishing industry for what it does simply because I love the written word – it is a powerful medium. Please, before using all of your political connections and lobbying powers to ruin the potential for enormous good, think outside of the box with your heads out of the sand.

The sky is not falling.

Sincerley,

Bernie

—————E-mail Response From Ms. Schroeder———

We love the idea of the internet and publishers are there with websites and digital copies. What Google forgets is no one would use their search engine if there wasn’t interestiing content to search. SO, taking the content away from the creators without permission, is a sure way to dry up future content. Yahoo, Microsoft and others are doing it correctly and even Google is overseas.

Our forefathers thought allot about intellectual property because they were publishers, authors and inventors and put protection of it in the MAIN body of the Constitution, Art. 1, sec. 8. Publishers get permissions everyday to publish books and so do many other companies. One of the most profitable in the world should play by the rules also.

Pat Schroeder

I have a couple of additonal arguments to make but I think I start in the next post.

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