In a lively, sometimes contentious discussion Saturday at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Dan Clancy, engineering director for the Google Book Search Project, diligently explicated the proposed settlement with publishers and authors over books scanned from libraries, but was unable to answer some pressing questions from librarians, noting that the settlement itself remains unresolved.
While the cost for institutional subscriptions to the entire database would be based on FTE students, Clancy was not ready to talk pricing. Paul Courant, dean of libraries at the University of Michigan, a partner in the Google product, acknowledged that pricing was key, but speculated that the “pricing’s going to be pretty good,” because the retail market places a limit on institutional prices and Google’s business model is “eyeballs on their pages.”
Moreover, should prices be too high for the database, he said, “We’re no worse off. It just becomes a richer finding tool, better than search and snippet.”
Laura Quilter, a librarian and attorney, was a bit less optimistic. “The pricing is clearly set up in favor of the rights holders,” she warned.
Clancy later said he was surprised no one had pointed out that, for consumers, rights holders can set a price of zero and display the book under a Creative Commons license. “My personal feeling is there are more than enough rights holders” who don’t consider books their main income and “who will just want their books read." ...
While Courant acknowledged compromises in the settlement, he suggested that...no one else would have done it, taking aim at the idea, “very nicely articulated by Bob Darnton in the New York Review of Books," that the library community could have achieved a similar result. “The world I live in was not going to produce that,” he said. “The key issue is that literature of most of the 20th century is unfindable and undigitized.” ...
Mitch Freedman, past president of ALA, wondered about changes to the “free to all” ideology of libraries, asking whether Google would permit, as do other databases, site licenses for public libraries. Clancy said that, given the consumer market, there was no agreement on remote access, but that could change down the road. “Authors and publishers were not comfortable with remote access.” ...
Clancy noted that, according to the agreement, should Google restrict anything for editorial reasons —he said pornography has been cited as an example, but “at this point, we have no plans for anything like that”— the scan would be made available so libraries can work with the registry to provide access....
Near the end of the Q&A, [Brewster] Kahle posed a series of questions, getting Clancy to acknowledge that no other registry can serve the same role, that the registry can be modified, and that —as with other class-action settlements— it was negotiated under a non-disclosure agreement.
Does the settlement, Kahle asked Courant, make it more difficult for others to enter the arena of out-of-print digital book provisioning? “My completely amateur opinion is, yeah,” Courant responded....
Peter Suber at 1/30/2009 12:34:00 PM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.