Google Pays $125 Million to Writers and Buys Us Some Free Books

Illustration for article titled Google Pays $125 Million to Writers and Buys Us Some Free Books

Google has been scanning somewhere around 3,000 books per day for its Google Book Search program. The only problem was that they never got permission from ­ The Authors Guild or the Association of American Publishers. Today the three organizations reached an agreement that involved Google paying $125 million in licensing fees. But the flip side is that libraries will be able to access Google's online books in full for free, and individuals will have the opportunity to purchase selected texts in the future (including out-of-print books). Here are the full details:

Preview — Allows users to freely preview a limited number of pages of in-copyright works to help users decide if the book is right for them to buy. Generally, out-of-print books will be available for preview, and in-print books will not unless the rightsholder decides to activate previews through their participation in this settlement or through the Book Search Partner Program. Consumer Purchase — Offers individual users the ability to purchase access to view an entire in-copyright book online. The rightsholder may set the price or allow the price to be set by a Google algorithm. Institutional Subscription — For academic, corporate, and government organizations. Gives members of the institution full access to in-copyright, out-of-print books. Free Public Library Access — Authorizes free, full-text, online viewing of in-copyright, out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries at no charge to the library or the reader, with added revenues to the rightsholders through per page printing fees. Future Services — The agreement allows for other services and uses, such as Print-On-Demand, Consumer Subscription and others, to be agreed in the future.


Unfortunately, it doesn't look like consumers outside of educational institutions or libraries will see many freebies. There's always a catch! In terms of what book puchases will cost consumers, "Google will automatically set and adjust prices through an algorithm designed to maximize revenues for the book" though rightsholders will still have a final say. So in other words, we don't know yet, and it will vary. [Google and Authors Guild via Slashdot]

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This reminds me of my second year in college. Just beyond the start of the amazing internet revolution and I was tasked with reading James Joyce's - The Dubliners. Of course being an idiot or the crafty student I was I actually found a version that had been transcribed online and seeing as how I couldn't part with six dollars(or the price of a cup at a party give or take), I never bought it during class.

Oddly enough years a few years later I bought it for around six dollars.

As far as accessibility and the costs to access, I'm all over the place. One part of me says that significant titles should be accessible easily to the general public. Think of the above example...The Dubliners in most small to mid-size cities will not have more than one or two copies per library. Since libraries aren't for-profit centers, they only purchase one copy anyways and the publisher is losing out on tons of profit.

So why would it be fair to charge per access online. If you download it, it'd be one thing. If you could subscribe to GoogleBooks, for a low $20 a year fee that would another. Though to charge you to look at a piece of great fiction that ultimately can pay out in smarter people, new writers and a general better society should not have price restraints to such knowledge.