The path is now open for millions of books digitized through the Google Book Search project to be available to the public. This includes in-copyright books as well as out-of-print and out-of-copyright books. The tentative agreement announced today would settle the class action lawsuit filed against Google in 2005 by the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and a handful of individual authors and publishers.
The big news, from the perspective of libraries, is that libraries will be able to provide their patrons with access to vastly increased numbers of digital volumes. (See the Google Book Search Copyright Settlement for the full text and details.) Two points are worth noting in particular:
- Free online viewing of books at U.S. public and university libraries — “public libraries, community colleges, and universities across the U.S. will be able to provide free full-text reading to books housed in great libraries of the world like Stanford, California, Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan [the Google Book partners]. Public libraries will be eligible to receive one free Public Access Service license for a computer located on-site at each of their library buildings in the United States.
Non-profit, higher education institutions will be eligible to receive free Public Access Service licenses for on-site computers, the exact number of which will depend on the number of students enrolled.”
- Institutional subscriptions to millions of additional books — “[L]ibraries will also be able to purchase an institutional subscription to millions of books covered by the settlement agreement. Once purchased, this subscription will allow a library to offer its patrons access to the incredible collections of Googleâs library partners from any computer authorized by the library.” In other words, libraries can add Google Books to their proxy servers (for a fee) and thereby allow full-text access to millions of books.
While the settlement has not been approved by the courts, the news that Google and the publishers have agreed on terms is terrifically exciting.
Disclaimer: My employer is one of the Google Book partner institutions.