French to Google: No Book for You!

In their attempt to take over the interwebs, one of Google’s most ambitious but least often mentioned side projects has been the attempt to digitize and sell books. They’ve had to revise one contract with US publishers/authors after several groups (including the French, the Germans and some watchdog groups) filed an appeal in the US courts. A judge is expected to rule on the revised contract in February.

Meanwhile, Google is also trying to win the French over in allowing them to digitize French literature and then sell it. But it’s not working. As it is, google has a website up to see preview books with customer reviews and links to other sellers.

A random click on the Clive and Dirk Cussler book, Artic Drift, gives you a good glance at what Google has in mind. The preview option is extensive with what appears to be well over 200 pages of the novel. To the left is a small list of book sellers with their prices next to them. There’s the expected options to review, buy, and change pages. And there’s what could be a devastatingly powerful option to search the text for something specific. Anyone who has had to write a critical paper on a literary work can probably guess at how useful such a tool would be.

This also ties into recent talk of Apple’s bringing out a tablet with a focus on e-literature. If Google can overcome its various obstacles, I have to think it would become a massive outlet for book titles for a non-dedicated tablet style PC that could be used as an e-reader. Rather than buying specialized files from Amazon or wherever, and having your files at the mercy of Amazon’s discretion, google could throw the e-reader business doors wide open to any company able to make a reasonably affordable tablet.

Of course, there will be the continued fretting over piracy (though, here’s a clue, people already pirate books – just do a torrent search) and google’s mass scanning exercise doesn’t do much for HTML or other programming language based texts, but I think the future is there.

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