I don’t pretend to know the full story behind the battle that’s shaping up over Google’s plan to make millions of books (many of them out of print and hard to find) available for purchase online. I don’t even know all of the arguments so I’m going to dig into the issue more tomorrow.
There are two conclusions I can draw, however, based solely on last night’s lede from the New York Times:
Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo are planning to join a coalition of nonprofit groups, individuals and library associations to oppose a proposed class-action settlement giving Google the rights to commercialize digital copies of millions of books.
First, whatever the outcome, after all the trials and suits and counter-suits are settled the landscape for writers will have fundamentally changed because distribution will have fundamentally changed. The current technological marvel and oddity that is electronic publishing will quickly become the norm, even if individual copies of these books are also made available in printed form.
Second, none of the musclebound corporate antagonists fighting to control this process is involved because they love writers and want to protect them from bad people. Profit motive is driving everyone’s interest, and the names of the tech-company titans who are squaring off should suggest just how much money is involved.
— Mark Barrett