Here's a NYT article about the recent deal that Google cut with the publishers about scanning out-of-print books and then making the available on-line. (see: Google Deal Gives Publishers a Choice: Digitize or Not). It's very insightful about the status of e-books and how the publisher's acceptance of the inevitable may affect the book authors' legal suit against Google. Below is an excerpt from the article:
After seven years of litigation, Google and book publishers [have] reached a settlement to allow publishers to choose whether Google digitizes their books and journals. It was a small step forward for Google’s plan to digitize every book and make them readable and searchable online, known as the Google Library Project, but it did not resolve the much bigger issue standing in Google’s way — litigation between Google and authors.Though the settlement will not change much about the way that Google and publishers already partner, it is the newest signpost for defining copyright in the Internet age. It is also the latest evidence of the shift to e-books from print, and of Google’s efforts to compete with e-book rivals like Amazon.com. Digital books were a new and daunting prospect when the publishers first sued Google seven years ago, but they have now become commonplace.....The deal allows publishers to choose whether to allow Google to digitize their out-of-print books that are still under copyright protection. If Google does so, it will also provide them with a digital copy for their own use, perhaps to sell on their Web sites.
For books that it has digitized, Google allows people to read 20 percent of them online and purchase the entire books from the Google Play store, and it shares revenue with the publishers....Google has been offering publishers the opportunity to sell digital books for years, and digitizing new books has become routine for publishers. But under the settlement, publishers get the benefit of Google digitizing out-of-print books that they might not otherwise have turned into e-books. Meanwhile, Google can expand the library of e-books it sells to consumers.....The settlement does not answer the question at the heart of the litigation between Google and publishers and authors — whether Google is infringing copyright by digitizing books. It essentially allows both sides to agree to disagree, and gives publishers the right to keep their ....But the bigger case, between Google and the Authors Guild, remains tied up in court. An agreement between those two parties will determine whether Google can move forward with its broader, more ambitious digitizing plan.
Paper books will never go away -- they will always co-exist with e-books. For myself and relating to magazines, I have digital subscriptions to both Business Week and the New Yorker. I can download new copies to my iPad in a matter of minutes. It's much more convenient for me and it's a small step in helping the environment by reducing paper waste. The publishers are willing to pass some of their cost savings to me as a subscriber of their magazines. However, I find myself unable to concentrate when reading e-books which are longer reads than e-magazine articles.
It appears to me that the settlement by Google with the publishers is a win-win, as described above. I am hoping that Google will be able to arrive at a similar end-point with the authors. I, for one, would welcome the on-line access to a host of out-of-print books. The content of these books would also then become available with Google search, making research on the web even more useful. I am happy that Google has persisted with its vision for e-books that has now become more of a reality.