Thursday, October 27, 2005

WSJ approves of Google Print

Alan Murray has written a column in the Wall Street Journal on why "Google Library is Great for the World."

He's looking at it from an economist's point of view--rather than the publishers--and of course Google's revenues and earnings are looking really good right now. (Raise your hands now--how many of us bought stock when we should have?)

One line from the article give me a twinge, when I have my library hat on:

The Google economy is a kind of high-tech feudal system: The peasants produce the content; Google makes the profits. That's all the more annoying to the content crowd because the lords of this money machine--Sergey Brin and Larry Page--perpetuate the goofy-sounding notion that they do all this to help the world, rather than line their own pockets.

"That's true," Brin said in an interview. "We talked at Stanford for a while about making Google an open-source project. We ultimately decided that would not be an efficient way for us to get the resources we needed to make it run. So we started a company."

As for the Google Print Library Project, Brin says, "We actually dreamed of the ability to do this back before we started Google as a company." It is good for Google's users, good for the business, it's fair, and it's legal, he says. "But more importantly, I think it is really great for the world."

Goofy-sounding notion indeed.

The article needs a login (which I don't have) but there is a Video available for free. And the video gives a clear picture of what "normal" people (or at least media/business people) think about Google Print.

Check out the video--there is one point where the commentator says, "What's the difference between this and going to the library?" I soooo wanted to jump into the conversation!!

Of course, there was also one guy who was adamant that "no one is going to read a book on the computer screen."


waltc said...

Hmm. The way I just heard it (watching that tiny little screen) was that the guy said two things:

He isn't about to read a whole book on the screen (or sit there printing the whole thing out).

Most people aren't going to read a whole book on the screen.

I agree with the latter statement. I don't think most people have any interest in reading whole books on the screen. Doesn't mean nobody will--and I didn't hear him say that.

Andy Havens said...

Couple things.

First, we're again talking about the value of the forest vs. the value of the trees and the value of finding a particular tree. The value that Google (and Google Print) provides is the service of search. Fine. And the more there is to search, and the better a job they do at it... the more value they are providing. Again fine.

And when it comes to searching web sites, which are, often, marketing and promotional spaces or entertainment spaces to begin with, there seems to have been an unwritten law that "being found is good." The entire SEO industry is a testament to that ideal. I want people to find my site, and therefore I will do everything possible to bump up my search engine ranking and make Google happy with my stuff. And since Google's has monetized its search model based on advertising -- another aspect of marketing -- this issue has caused almost no friction in the world of site search.

But Google Print isn't just searching/finding/serving content that is inherently marketing related. It is doing it to all kinds of non-fiction content and materials that, for one reason or another, the content developers/owners/publishers may not wish to have tied to an advertising/marketing model. Why? Because there are other models. Because they are the owners of their materials and because it is their choice. Because, in copyright land, you get to say, "This is my stuff, and you can't make money off it without my say-so."

Let's give an extreme example. Suppose you, Mr. Publisher/Author, have the rights to all the most authoratative materials on Subject X. You have spent years developing this content and now Google Print is scanning, searching and serving it on the open web. And making money off of offering advertising based on key-words relative to your content, sold to your direct competitors, who are way, way behind you in content development, but who are now leveraging your past efforts in order to advertise their services on Google. So... Google and your competition are making money because you've spent the time, effort and expertise to develop solid content.

Not so much fun for the content owner.

It's an extreme example, of course. But there are others. What if you don't want your content searched using an engine that's not specific to your industry, because you have concerns about people using the materials incorrectly? What if you don't want your content served up cheek-by-jowl with materials that may have similar search terms, but be unrelated in any "real" way? What if you don't want advertisers for products/services you find offensive to gain access to your audience via search hits coming off your content?

What if you just don't want your stuff searched by someone else?

I love Google. And I think that many of the publishers who choose to go with Google Print will find ways to leverage that relationship for terrific benefits for everyone involved. But I also think that we need to be careful about who keeps control of copyrighted materials, and who gets to make money off of other people's property, and how they do it.

Also: on reading books on screens. I thought it would never happen, either. Until I figured out how to do it easily, and to adjust the font size on my Palm's e-reader program. Now I can read in the dark while my wife sleeps, and in the car at night. I can store a couple dozen books on a device the size of a deck of cards; the same device that also holds my calendar, work notes, contact info, etc. Standing in line at the bank and the BMV is much less unpleasant when you've got a good book on you...

Of the last twelve books I've read, eight have been on my Palm.

And if you think reading a book on a Palm screen is way-out, how about reading on your cell phone? Check out this article from the AP posted on Wired Magazine's web site.