Sunday, October 2

Search and Rescue - New York Times

Tim O'reilly of O'reilly books on Google's project to digitize thousands of books to make them searchable. The article reiterates a point that's important to ALL forms of intellectual property, and he ought to know what he's talking about being a widely successful publisher of technical books.

"Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than copyright infringement, or even outright piracy.'"

In my opinion it's a fundamental truth about the long tail of intellectual property that applies to everything from books to music, movies, and blogging... you name it.

From Search and Rescue - New York Times:

"A search engine for books will be revolutionary in its benefits. Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than copyright infringement, or even outright piracy. While publishers invest in each of their books, they depend on bestsellers to keep afloat. They typically throw their products into the market to see what sticks and cease supporting what doesn't, so an author has had just one chance to reach readers. Until now.

Google promises an alternative to the obscurity imposed on most books. It makes that great corpus of less-than-bestsellers accessible to all. By pointing to a huge body of print works online, Google will offer a way to promote books that publishers have thrown away, creating an opportunity for readers to track them down and buy them. Even online sellers like Amazon offer only a small fraction of the university libraries' titles. While there are many unanswered questions about how businesses will help consumers buy the books they've found through a search engine for printed materials that is as powerful as Google's current Web search, there's great likelihood that Google Print's Library Project will create new markets for forgotten content. In one bold stroke, Google will give new value to millions of orphaned works.

I'm sorry to see authors buy into the old-school protectionism of the Authors Guild, not realizing they're acting against their own self-interest. Their resistance can come only from a failure to understand the nature of the program. Google Library is intended to help readers discover copyrighted works, not to give copies away. It's a tremendous service to authors that will help them beat the dismal odds of publishing as usual."

Be sure to read the whole article.

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