Like everyone else, I use Google dozens of times a day. Their web search engine is still the best I’ve found, but Google also has a number of more specialized search functions that I like and use regularly. By far my favorite is Google Book Search, which is not one of the main functions listed on Google’s home page, but it will appear if you click the “more” link.
Google Book Search enables you to search the full texts of all of the books stored in its database, which is made up of books scanned from the collections of cooperating libraries (including Harvard University, Oxford University, and the New York Public Library, to name a few) and digital book files submitted by publishers. For books in the public domain (published in the U.S. before 1923), you can read as much of the text as you like online, download a PDF file of the entire book, and print as many pages as you want. For books still under copyright, if the author or publisher has given permission, you may be able to view a limited number of pages (though you cannot print or copy any of the text), but most books are restricted to only a few lines or no preview at all. Google displays detailed information about each book, and you can see a list of libraries that have it or buy a copy from an online bookstore.
I love Google Book Search because it helps me discover extremely useful and interesting books of all kinds– old and new, in-print and out-of-print, primary and secondary sources, and valuable sources of information long neglected or forgotten. I love having instant access to complete works in the public domain that are out of print and not available through my local libraries. I love being able to search the texts of millions of books simultaneously for words or phrases– names, places, dates, subjects, titles, historical events, etc.
Google Book Search has always been controversial because it scans books still under copyright without obtaining permission from the authors and publishers, and Google has been sued by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over it. The great news is, according to Publishers Weekly, the lawsuits have been settled, and everyone wins– millions of books under copyright will be searchable online, there will be a way to purchase full online access to many copyrighted works, the full texts of out-of-print books will be viewable for free on library computer terminals, authors and publishers will control whether or not their works are included and share in the revenue generated through online access to their works, a nonprofit Book Rights Registry will be set up, etc. As both a researcher and the wife of an author, I am thrilled.
Here are excerpts from the AAP statement detailing the settlement:
The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and Google today announced a groundbreaking settlement agreement on behalf of a broad class of authors and publishers worldwide that would expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the U.S. from the collections of a number of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search….
The agreement promises to benefit readers and researchers, and enhance the ability of authors and publishers to distribute their content in digital form, by significantly expanding online access to works through Google Book Search, an ambitious effort to make millions of books searchable via the Web. The agreement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright owners, provides an efficient means for them to control how their intellectual property is accessed online and enables them to receive compensation for online access to their works.
If approved by the court, the agreement would provide:
- More Access to Out-of-Print Books — Generating greater exposure for millions of in-copyright works, including hard-to-find out-of-print books, by enabling readers in the U.S. to search these works and preview them online;
- Additional Ways to Purchase Copyrighted Books — Building off publishers’ and authors’ current efforts and further expanding the electronic market for copyrighted books in the U.S., by offering users the ability to purchase online access to many in-copyright books;
- Institutional Subscriptions to Millions of Books Online — Offering a means for U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
- Free Access From U.S. Libraries — Providing free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
- Compensation to Authors and Publishers and Control Over Access to Their Works — Distributing payments earned from online access provided by Google and, prospectively, from similar programs that may be established by other providers, through a newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will also locate rightsholders, collect and maintain accurate rightsholder information, and provide a way for rightsholders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project.
Under the agreement, Google will make payments totaling $125 million. The money will be used to establish the Book Rights Registry, to resolve existing claims by authors and publishers and to cover legal fees. The settlement agreement resolves… lawsuits [that] challenged Google’s plan to digitize, search and show snippets of in-copyright books and to share digital copies with libraries without the explicit permission of the copyright owner.
Holders worldwide of U.S. copyrights can register their works with the Book Rights Registry and receive compensation from institutional subscriptions, book sales, ad revenues and other possible revenue models, as well as a cash payment if their works have already been digitized.
Libraries at the Universities of California, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford have provided input into the settlement and expect to participate in the project, including by making their collections available. Along with a number of other U.S. libraries that currently work with Google, their significant efforts to preserve, maintain and provide access to books have played a critical role in achieving this agreement and, through their anticipated participation, they are furthering such efforts while making books even more accessible to students, researchers and readers in the U.S. It is expected that additional libraries in the U.S. will participate in this project in the future….
“It’s hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it,” said Roy Blount Jr., President of the Authors Guild. “As a reader and researcher, I’ll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world’s great libraries. As an author, well, we appreciate payment when people use our work. This deal makes good sense.”
“This historic settlement is a win for everyone,” said Richard Sarnoff, Chairman of the Association of American Publishers. “From our perspective, the agreement creates an innovative framework for the use of copyrighted material in a rapidly digitizing world, serves readers by enabling broader access to a huge trove of hard-to-find books, and benefits the publishing community by establishing an attractive commercial model that offers both control and choice to the rightsholder.”
“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Today, together with the authors, publishers, and libraries, we have been able to make a great leap in this endeavor,” said Sergey Brin, co-founder & president of technology at Google. “While this agreement is a real win-win for all of us, the real victors are all the readers. The tremendous wealth of knowledge that lies within the books of the world will now be at their fingertips.”
Here is Google’s blog post about the settlement.
Here the future changes to Google Book Search resulting from the agreement are explained.