If you read books, you’ll want to know what Robert Darnton has to say about the pending Google book deal, in Google & the Future of Books – The New York Review of Books. Here’s a teaser:
As an unintended consequence, Google will enjoy what can only be called a monopolyâ€”a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information. Google has no serious competitors. Microsoft dropped its major program to digitize books several months ago, and other enterprises like the Open Knowledge Commons (formerly the Open Content Alliance) and the Internet Archive are minute and ineffective in comparison with Google. Google alone has the wealth to digitize on a massive scale. And having settled with the authors and publishers, it can exploit its financial power from within a protective legal barrier; for the class action suit covers the entire class of authors and publishers. No new entrepreneurs will be able to digitize books within that fenced-off territory, even if they could afford it, because they would have to fight the copyright battles all over again. If the settlement is upheld by the court, only Google will be protected from copyright liability.
A policy change of this magnitude should not be negotiated behind closed doors to the detriment of all purveyors of information but Google.