It’s widely reported today that Google has won the case against the Authors’ Guild in the States. Judge Chin says it’s OK for Google to freely digitise all books, for the purposes of showing snippets. People can now search to see if a book is relevant to their research or interest.
To me, this still raises an issue as to whether anyone should scan a book without the consent of the author. It feels similar to the issue with Google’s street views, which inadvertently showed people in the street at the time, also without their consent. It feels like an infringement of rights. It feels like part of our growing lack of privacy and control.
That being said, any student could go into a library and flick through books, to see if they were going to be useful. Besides academic uses, there’s an already-established practice of being able to skim some of a book on Amazon before deciding to buy it. Looks like this ship has sailed. What used to be restricted because it’s labour-intensive (you’d have to go to a library or shop in person, pick up the book and glance through it), is now easy – and global.
I feel rather fazed by the enormity of it. But, optimist that I am, I’m going to put my faith in Judge Chin’s diligence and wisdom, and hope that it does indeed mean that more people buy more books.