announced that it had reached a deal with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, that would allow Google to scan, display, and sell advertising against out-of-print books. The advertising and subscription revenues from this deal would be shared between Google, the authors, and publishers. In the last few days, however, there have been a number of setbacks, and while the project probably won't be derailed by these, it looks like there will definitely be some delays.Last October, Google
Just a few days ago, Google announced that it would extend the period for authors to opt out of the settlement, and now, according to reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has begun an inquiry into the antitrust implications of the settlement.
A number of constituents had doubts about the agreement from the beginning. Librarians and academics, for example, fear that Google, which would basically be the only entity with a comparable license to publish these orphaned books online, would have no competition and would hence be able to charge libraries and other institutions any price it sees fit.
It is hard not to feel a bit torn about this issue. On the one hand, the prospect of having free or cheap access to this enormous repository of texts is tantalizing, while giving even more power to Google seems problematic as well. At the same time, though, few companies will be able to replicate Google's efforts (though it should be noted that this is a non-exclusive agreement), and the settlement is the closest we have come to a universal online library and a way for providing easy access to all of these books.
Image used courtesy of Flickr user sagegale.