What, Exactly, Is A Library?

October 26th, 2005 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

It stands to reason that more than a few authors and publishers support Google’s book scanning initiative. We once took a statistics class and there was a technical term for people like this. It will likely come to us next week after our attention has moved on.

Wired tracks down several authors and gets a sense of where they stand on the controversy. While we are pretending to focus on authors who favor the project, it was the comment of one that struck us the most:

“Listing my book in a cybercatalog isn’t the problem,” wrote Ron Franscell, author of two published novels, in an e-mail. “Scanning it fully and owning it without ever paying a royalty is a bigger issue to me.”

So Franscell would be satisfied if Google ponied up a dollar or two as compensation for “their” copy? This is a most interesting notion — those direct royalties would be pocket change for Google (a depressing thought in and of itself). After all, once a library purchases a copy of a book and the money winds through the financial chain all the way down to the author, the library then makes every page (every page!) available to any patron who wishes to pick up dusty thing and try to read it. None of this offering just a glimpse inside for libraries, no indeed.

Setting aside the logistical nightmare that might ensue when it comes to books that are out-of-print (or authors who suffer the human equivalent), this is an interesting notion. Google could buy books for its library. Which would then lead to a discussion about what constitutes a library. And can one library borrow the assets of another (inter-library loan), which is, on one level, what Google is doing? And so on.

File Under: The Business of Publishing

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