Will Google own all IP?

June 10, 2009 at 1:49 am 5 comments

In a move that proves that commerce will always overfill a pothole, Google has announced that it is set to be an e-bookstore, among its other roles. This is quite different from the Goggle Book Settlement it is pursuing and which is being investigated by the Dept. of Justice. (Basically, the settlement is for authors, publishers and other US copyright holders to opt-out of allowing Google Books to put up their books/stories on GBks. Google currently shows up to 20% of each book they’ve  had scanned, and potentially 100% of  books in the public domain. There’re a whole load of issues surrounding loss of rights, monopoly, classes of persons affected and jurisdiction–go here for a rough guide of the settlement.)

What I find interesting is Google’s pre-emptive move to secure a favourable position ahead of the Sept. settlement deadline and the October hearing by going retail. The worst case scenario is the DoJ decides the settlement is anti-trust and disallows it. Google could appeal/amend the settlement. Google could still keep, and sell, its preview of books to other distributors, including libraries and universities. As a sweetener, having Google as your distributor would be like, oh wow.

The best case? Unlimited future earnings for Google from selling access to these books or from selling and publishing e-books. This puzzles me–Google isn’t in the retail business. It’s a platform that delivers information; any kind, anyone’s, information. It sells services. I consider books to be a product, not a service. So what does Google do? They decide to be a publisher too. Why not? Amazon does it. Vertical Integration is where it’s at–control upline and downline access to facilities (such as a large marketplace or depository) and, if you’re big enough, buyers will have to come to you. News Corp, for one, does it too. Considering Google’s reach, it would be a hard deal to resist. But what does Google know about the nuts and bolts of publishing not to mention the peculiarities of readers’ buying habits, really? Google might as well say they’re going into aqua farming.

Google Books, the settlement, the e-bookstore, cloud computing… are all related. Each enhances the other and none should be viewed in isolation. Google wants to be the only platform you need to use to access information. In future, the world will not run on physical products but on licences and intellectual property. Many commentators see this as a clash of goliaths – Amazon v Google for the future e-book market. I see this as Google following its guiding principle to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful no matter whose toes they have to step on. The settlement and the DoJ investigation are merely another obstacle. What a wonderful goal, if only it wasn’t concentrated in one hand.

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Entry filed under: e-books, It's bizness, Literary related news, Techie stuff. Tags: , .

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Evecho’s newsy bits

News, updates and links from the lesbian and publishing ‘verse that interest me, my current projects, keeping up with authors and sharing musings on middle-class life, gourmet adventures and comparisons between East/West perspectives. My opinions will likely be linearly logical and gayly bent, as they tend to be.