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All stories relating to Google Books

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HathiTrust ruling bodes well for Google Books, the beef against women readers, and more


Google launches Canadian eBookstore

After almost a year of delays, Google has launched its Canadian e-books platform.

According to a press release from Google, “hundreds of thousands of titles will be available for purchase” in Canada through its eBookstore, and through online resellers McNally Robinson in Winnipeg and the Campus Bookstore at Queen’s University. Built using open cloud technology, Google e-books are compatible on most popular platforms, devices, and e-readers.

Google also announced its first Canadian publishing partners as Penguin Canada, Random House of Canada, and HarperCollins Canada, as well as independent publishers House of Anansi Press, Dundurn Press, and McGill-Queen’s University Press, with plans to bring “more publishers into the eBookstore ecosystem in the weeks to come.”

In the U.S., where Google’s e-book retail site launched last December, over 200 resellers sell Google e-books through a partnership with the American Booksellers Association.

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Book links round-up: happy authors, Amazon in Spain, and more

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Lawsuit targets efforts to digitize books

Quebec’s Writers’ Union, the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains Québécois (UNEQ), is one of three major authors’ groups that filed a lawsuit yesterday against five U.S. universities for copyright infringement, The New York Times reports. The writers’ groups, which include the Authors Guild and the Australian Society of Authors along with eight individual authors, argue that the digital archive known as HathiTrust, a partnership between universities and libraries that houses millions of books and journals, does not respect authors’ rights.

From The NYT:

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, contends that “by digitizing, archiving, copying and now publishing the copyrighted works without the authorization of those works’ rights holders, the universities are engaging in one of the largest copyright infringements in history.”

The plaintiffs are also concerned with the security of HathiTrust’s files. Rather than seeking damages, authors’ groups are asking that HathiTrust remove their digital collection.

This isn’t the first time the Authors Guild has taken issue with digital books. In 2005, the guild filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google for its initiative to digitize print texts through Google Books. That case remains unresolved.

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EU proposes seven-year limit on Google

An independent panel of arts and communications experts has advised the European Commission to limit the amount of time a private company such as Google can exercise preferential use of digitized materials from the public domain.

Speaking at a press conference in Brusells yesterday, Androulla Vassiliou, EU commissioner for education and culture, said that Google’s current 15-year limit should be halved to seven years in order to encourage competition in both digitizing and commercializing digitized assets.

Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that Google Books is currently the world’s biggest producer of digitized content of public domain works. In the six years that Google Books has been around, it has already digitized 15 million texts.

As the company responsible for the digitization of a work, Google is currently granted an extended period of preferential use throughout which access to the item is limited, in Google’s case, to a library’s website, noncommercial websites, or Google’s website. In pushing for the new limit, the panel is hoping for increased access for not-for-profit organizations, specifically Europeana, an online portal for digitized works of European arts and culture funded by the EU

According to The New York Times, the commission also recommended “direct[ing] more public funds to digitizing those works to increase educational resources and develop new businesses.”

The commission also suggested that that would offer value for money, as the funds needed to build 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, of roads would be enough to pay for the digitization of 16 percent of all available books in E.U. libraries.


Google issues apology to Chinese writers

After a long copyright debate, Google has offered an apology to Chinese authors, admitting that they treated them unfairly. The country’s authors were in an uproar when they discovered that Google had digitized their works without first asking permission.

The Internet giant has agreed to provide a list of scanned books to the China Written Works Copyright Society and will work with the China Writers’ Association to come to an agreement on this issue. The New York Times reports:

“We definitely agree that we haven’t done a sufficient job in communicating with Chinese writers,” Erik Hartmann, who runs the Asia-Pacific division of Google Books, wrote in a letter to the China Writers’ Association. […]

Zhang Hongbo, the secretary general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, which manages Chinese copyrights, hailed the letter and the apology. “It is a result that all Chinese copyright holders have been waiting for,” he said. “We look forward to Google’s deeper understanding of this issue.”

According to the Times, last month Shanghai author Mian Mian was the first Chinese writer to take legal action against Google. This is how the company responded:

“In China like everywhere else, if a book is in copyright we don’t show more than a few snippets of text without the explicit permission of the rights holder,” Courtney Hohne, a Google spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail message. “In addition, we have a longstanding policy of honoring authors’ wishes, and authors or publishers who wish to exclude their book may do so at any time.”

So far, it seems Google has been following the belief that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. In the meantime, the company has said it plans to reach an agreement with the China Writer’s Association by early summer.


Will Kindle be the Betamax of the decade?

In the race to win consumer confidence (or, well, interest) in e-readers, one can’t help but wonder how we’ll look back on the recent Kindle vs. Sony hardware wars. With Google planting flags, and Amazon opposing the Google settlement, The Globe and Mail‘s king of tech nerds, Brian Joseph Davis, suggests the Kindle could go the way of ColecoVision, the Commodore 64, or even the once beloved Betamax.

My money is still on Sony this week as they’ve entered the fray of the Google settlement crisis. They’re on the side of Google Books. Sony’s Reader displays any e-book format and supports file copying on up to six devices. The Reader and Google are a good match.

On the other side is Amazon with their Kindle (which is a proprietary-file-laden piece of poo). Stepping into that corner with legal and monetary support, just because they hate Google, is the axis of Microsoft and Yahoo.

Meanwhile, blogger B.Kienapple weighs in on the e-reader battle, discussing the Google-supported, UK-based Interead, the company behind the Cool-er e-reader. Now that Google has provided “books” for the terribly named Cool-er, she wonders who will actually read said materials:

Academics? School kids? Everyone knows that Amazon has the selection and pricing down pat. This is the sad fact of the matter.

Also, while the Cool-er e-store is now well stocked, you may not want to read them on the Cool-er’s own e-reader. The review that came in from Gizmodo earlier this year indicated that problems abound. My biggest complaint, from what I can see in the review, is the computer-like font. The Sony and Kindle both mimic print type (easier on the eyes, I do think). The Cool-er’s functionality looks entirely primitive, too.

While it’s easy to mock twitchy-texting, Twitter-obsessed blogger-types, many of those same tech-savvy users remain staunchly old-fashioned when it comes to e-readers. Maybe if one came in a swag bag filled with free “books” this Quillblogger might accept it, if only to take on a plane thereby avoiding the ache of heavy luggage.

But you may want to hum a bar of “Video Killed the Radio Star” and keep a curious eye on the tech pages as the e-reader war unfolds. You wouldn’t want to resemble your uncle clinging to his eight-track tapes.


Barnes & Noble launches world’s biggest e-book store

U.S. mega-chain Barnes & Noble announced in a press release yesterday the creation of the world’s biggest e-book store comprising “more than 700,000 titles, including hundreds of new releases and bestsellers at only $9.99.” Unlike Amazon’s Kindle-only e-books, e-books purchased through B&N’s store will be compatible with a number of platforms (aside from the Kindle, of course): iPhone, BlackBerry, and most Windows and Mac computers. Through a partnership with Google Books, the B&N e-book store will also offer more than 500,000 free and downloadable public domain e-books.

B&N als announced an exclusive agreement to provide e-books for the forthcoming Plastic Logic e-reader, a device that is geared toward business professionals. From Fortune:

Plastic Logic vice president of business development Daren Benzi says his device is geared for business travelers, and as such will support the display of PDF files, Microsoft’s MS Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, as well as newspapers and magazines. But e-books are a big part of the game plan. “Will we carry every single one of those 700,000-plus titles? I don’t know. We’ll announce that as we get further along,” said Benzi. “But we will have access to them all.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, The Book Oven analyzes how B&N’s move will affect the e-book market.

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Yet more developments in the Google Book Search settlement

In response to the rallying opposition to the Google Book Search settlement, a federal judge in New York has extended the opt-out deadline, giving authors an additional four months to consider Google’s terms.

As if that weren’t enough, the U.S. Justice Department has also opened an antitrust investigation into Google’s actions. Mobylives reports:

The probe seems to be focussed on the fact that, as a Reuters wire story reports, the settlement “would allow Google – and only Google – to digitize so-called orphan works” and sell access to them. Orphan works are books that are out of print, but still in copyright. (Reuters is not correct when it indicates that it is unclear who owns copyrights in this situation – often, ownership is clear, as we here at Melville House can attest about several books we’ve brought back into print that are available now through Google Books.)

“There are legitimate antitrust issues related to Google’s ability to solely commercialize this content,” commented Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive. IA also digitizes books, and Brantley “said his organization had ‘multiple conversations’ with the Justice Department about the Google plan,” according to Reuters.

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One giant leap for Google Books

Google BooksThe New Yorker has a story by Jeffrey Toobin on Google’s staggeringly ambitious and hugely contentious Google Books project, in which the company intends to digitize and make fully searchable more than 30 million books over the next decade. (Toobin quotes the Google vice-president in charge of the project who describes the undertaking as Google’s “moon shot.” The lengthy article details the legal challenges some publishers are making to Google Books, and the possible dangers inherent in a possible cash settlement on Google’s part.

The article is as interesting for the information on the project and on the murky history of U.S. copyright law as it is for the glimpses into Google corporate life: pajama days (which most employees rightly spurn), free food 24 hours a day, and a 10,000-strong workforce, to which 50 people are apparently added every week.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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