Thursday, March 22, 2007

Publishers rush to digitise

Worried about the growth of Google Book Search (previously known as Google Print), publishers are rushing to digitise their books, reports David Derbyshire in The Telegraph.
HarperCollins plans to have digitised its collection of around 25,000 titles - most of them long out of print - by the end of next year.

Many in the industry believe that unless they take pre-emptive action, they could lose out to internet giants.
Google's project to digitise thousands of books has been opposed by the American Authors' Guild, but Google have defended their work.
We regret that this group chose to sue us over a program that will make millions of books more discoverable to the world -- especially since any copyright holder can exclude their books from the program. What’s more, many of Google Print’s chief beneficiaries will be authors whose backlist, out of print and lightly marketed new titles will be suggested to countless readers who wouldn’t have found them otherwise.
As long as copyright is respected then it's hard to see digitisation as anything but a good thing for authors, whoever is doing it. The so-called Long Tail effect of internet retailing has already helped smaller-selling authors and anything that makes it easier to buy books, whether on paper or digitally, must surely be a good thing.

Update: Further reflections on the subject from Victor Keegan.
Interesting things are happening on a variety of fronts that are changing the way books are found, read and talked about, and in almost every case for the good. Even while you are reading this, Google and others are scanning libraries of books - including the Bodleian at Oxford - to make tomes that were hitherto hidden available for all to read; in the case of the millions of out-of-copyright and "orphaned" ones, where ownership is unknown, for free.

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