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Google Partnering With Publishers To Sell Online Books

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Google gave me the heads-up late Friday that a new feature allowing publishers to sell online versions of their books through Google Book Search was about to go live. Nothing was yet online when we talked, but that's since changed. A new help page, What does it mean to sell online access to my book?, explains that the program is the first in a series of revenue tools being rolled out for publishers.

The experiment will allow publishers to sell access to their books online, something Google hinted was coming back in November and January. Publishers set a price, then consumers can buy and read the book online. At the moment, the program supposedly will not allow copies of the book to be saved to a computer or pages to be printed ("copy pages") to be made. We'll see. So far, Google's existing protections limiting what users can see from books online have not been cracked, to my knowledge.

The program does not allow anyone but publishers in the US and UK who are voluntarily in the Google Books Partner Program to sell books online. Google also has book content that comes from its library scanning program. These books are not being sold. It bears stressing:

GOOGLE IS NOT SELLING BOOKS THAT IT HAS SCANNED FROM THE COMPLETELY SEPARATE GOOGLE LIBRARY PROGRAM.

Despite the capital letters and bolding, expect that many will begin saying that Google is now illegally selling books that it has scanned from libraries, just as many incorrectly say Google is reprinting scanned books online (they aren't). Some will do this out of misunderstanding. Some opposed to the library scanning program will do it on purpose, just to continue muddying the waters. To understand the myths and realities, please consider reading these past posts from me:

Want to start buying books now? Hang in there. Google told me that first they're getting publishers up and running, then at some undetermined point in the future, books available for sale will be offered.

John Battelle's got a very short note on the new page being up over here. As a sidenote, be sure to check out John Battelle's The Search and Google Book Search that John pointed at last week. In the interview, you can see how his publisher Penguin won't let books go into Google Book Search despite John wanting to be there. I like this part of the copyright page in his book:

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.

Wow -- I didn't know the lawsuit over the library scanning program had been settled. Certainly it's fair use for anyone to copy, scan and do other things with pieces of the book without permission, depending on the various circumstances involved. Whether the entire book can be scanned for indexing purposes, rather than reprinting online, is what the lawsuit that Penguin and others are trying to discover.

By the way, distribution of the book "via any other means" is also mentioned. I wonder if every library that has a copy of the book got the publisher's permission to redistribute to their patrons. I'm guessing not. Expect libraries to be sued shortly.

Back to book selling, the Unofficial Google Weblog points to Google Offers Online Pay Plan from Publishers Weekly, which quotes Google talking about "perpetual access" to the books you buy, plus Google saying publishers will get the majority of the price charged, though Google itself will of course also cash in.

Threadwatch points at this blog post, which covers how publishers in the partner program got the news via email and citing one anonymously who is surprised/shocked that publishers are being asked to enroll without yet seeing what the money split will be exactly. Good point.

Information Week has news of publishers Taylor & Francis and Brill already signed up to sell through the service.

For more on Google Book Search, please see our Google: Book Search & Library category, if you are a Search Engine Watch member (and thank you, if so). You might also check out A Look Back as Google's Library Project Passes the One Year Mark.

Want to comment or discuss? Please visit our Google To Sell Online Books thread at our Search Engine Watch Forums.


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