Google of Books Going on Sale

Google Inc. announced September 17 that it will be offering for sale paper copies of 2 million books no longer protected by copyright, published by high-speed, print-on-demand Espresso Book Machines at campus bookstores, libraries and small retailers.

A cartoonist once called this “Letting the cat out of the cellophane bag.” It’s the beginning of what critics of the Google settlement have been expecting to happen. And:

Millions more titles could be added to On Demand’s virtual inventory if Google gets federal court approval of a class-action settlement that would grant it the right to sell copyrighted books no longer being published. Google estimates it already has made digital copies of about 6 million out-of-print books.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

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4 thoughts on “Google of Books Going on Sale

  1. “grant it the right to sell copyrighted books no longer being published.” Is, I believe, incorrect.

    I believe it’s only “orphan works” that could be “reprinted”, an “orphan work” being a work that is in copyright but there being no record of a current copyright holder.

    I sure most folks can recall seeing on the copyright page of an anthology something along the lines of “Every effort has been made to locate the copyright holder. If you beleive you are the copyright holder please contact the editor/publisher.”

    Try tracking down the rights to stories published in obscure pulp magazines of the 1930s. Most were “works for hire”.

  2. “It’s the beginning of what critics of the Google settlement have been expecting to happen.”

    I’m not clear: is there something wrong with making available/publishing books that are out of copyright? If so, how so?

  3. You seem to be conflating two entirely separate issues together in your post, Mike:

    a) reprinting, or making available for print, books that are out of copyright, which is both a good and commonplace and unremarkable; and:

    b) issues regarding books that are merely out of print.

    But you don’t explain what the issues are in the latter case, although that’s natural to some degree, because in fact the issues are rather complex and require a rather lengthy explanation and discussion. But nobody who doesn’t already have considerable knowledge of those issues is going to learn anything more about them from your post, which seems to be editorializing to some degree, without any explanation of the various aspects to the issues and arguments.

    In other words, this is one of those issues that I’d argue calls either for very short and limited reporting on, or very lengthy reporting on. To be sure, I’m holding you to a high level of professional standards here, but I’m assuming you want to be held to a high standard.

  4. Well, Gary, if you want to pretend not to understand this post you should sound a lot less knowledgeable about the topic.

    For example, the post doesn’t say there’s anything wrong with publishing books out of copyright.

    What it points out is that Google’s announcement reveals the “rails” laid for the economic engine it intends to create if the Google settlement frees it to exploit the “orphan” copyrighted works it has digitized.

    It would be redundant to provide detailed analysis in every post. About two-thirds of’s modest number of readers are regular followers, which means they’ll have seen analysis in earlier posts in the ongoing conversation.

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