A few weeks ago, I read more into Google’s Book Deal. I still haven’t calmed down. The company’s insistence of uploading all books of print online is tantamount to piracy. Although a settlement has been granted in America, I would suggest that this settlement does not have the backing of the majority of struggling authors. Google is invading an industry to which they know absolutely nothing about. They are fast becoming the most despised company in the world should this digitizing of books prevail.
Books are beautiful tangible assets that slip nicely in your hand and allow you to read for hours. It is possible to read online, I know, but reading online for numerous hours for one is bad for your eyes. I’m of the school that reading from books is easier than that from computers. The majority of paperbacks are easy to carry, transportable and cheap unlike their mechanic counterpart, being the computer. Yes, computers are getting smaller, but the tangibility of a book and its fresh smell give it something extra. Plus when you bring a book with you on your holidays, you’re not forced to dismantle the book bag and load up the book.
My problem with Google is not because of the above situation but with something a lot deeper than that as the company (spit) ventures to upload all books online. You notice that when you download Flash to your PC, the terms and conditions asks if you want to include an optional Google Toolbar. Fair enough, you think, unselect it and it won’t bother me again. It is the individual’s prerogative. So, where were Google when each author was negotiating a deal with an agent and publisher? Should they not be doing knocking on each rightsholder’s door asking for permission?
Another situation arises. An opportunity to download a piece of music arises that normally retails around €10, but you can get it for free on an illegal site. What would the user choose?
The Google Book Settlement will only serve more harm than good. The 1990’s saw Napster being prosecuted for illegally pirating music, thus infringing copyright. One difference between Google and Napster is that Napster isn’t bankrolled by millions of money like Google. Anything that is digitized to the web is easily copied and shared amongst millions.
Users will be free to copy, despite possible guarantees by Google that the writer’s works are secure from copyright infringement. Should this deal go ahead, Google stands to win; small writers will lose on valuable income, as will the author’s agents, publishers and bookshops due to the potential piracy. Yes, I know the author gets some recompense, but when one book manages to be copied, the damage has been done, the rightsholder’s book will be copied by unauthorized individual’s hoping to make a quick buck. This is not about money, this scar is much deeper. It is Napster and music all over again. Therefore, it is crucial that books are not to be made as online brochures.
It is imperative that the literary world does not kowtow to Google’s demands as the Authors Guild of America and many publishers already have. Google will ruin the literature world as Napster did to music. If there is an alternative to this mess, and that books are to be digitized, the Google clause must be an opt-in, not an opt-out to force Google to negotiate with each rightsholder individually.