I’ve spent most of this morning reading through some documentation sent to me by John Jarrold, my agent, concerning the Google Book Settlement. Google is in the process of digitising books. It began this, and has continued to do so, largely without the permission of rights holders.
The issues are complex. Even the summary I read contained several statements to the effect that we simply won’t how aspects of the agreement will be interpreted until they are tested in a court. Adding to the complexity is a mish-mash of UK and US jurisdictional problems.
Overall, I don’t think Google’s actions are legal; opting in to the settlement will suggest I agree with the legitimisation of an illegal act, which I don’t. It represents a fundamental change to copyright law that puts the onus on rights holders to defend themselves against behemothic entities.
If you’d like to know more, here is the Google Book Settlement Page; and here is a summary by Gillian Spraggs.
Further to my review of the COOL-ER eBook Reader, it’s worth noting that, elsewhere, the Internet is lighting up with comments, speculation and reviews about the coming storm in publishing that is the digitisation of literature. Check out this MacWorld story. It outlines the ten new ebook readers announced or released at CES this week.
I had a brief exchange with @Sifter on Twitter yesterday. He reminded me that the key factor in the digitisation of books is the development of a device that will bring such books to the masses. Remember a few years back when only students, tech journalists and geeks were using email? Then, suddenly, your mum and dad had email accounts. You could bank online. A tipping point had come. For ebooks, the tipping point will come with a device that can finally compete with the printed book as the technology best adapted for reading, short form and long.
Andy Ihnatko recently published a sensible round-up of what the fabled Apple Tablet (or iSlate, or iBook) might feature. Elsewhere, Neven Mrgan hopes that Apple will take the reins of the distribution model for writers so that publishing a book will be as easy as uploading photos to Flickr. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball has published two posts of speculating about the Tablet: the Tablet and Tablet Musings. How close will this device come to Apple’s 1987 Knowledge Navigator concept video?
Friday Project author Caroline Smailes — in a post entitled I’m Cheap — announced that her books In Search of Adam and Black Boxes are now available as ebooks for the relatively cheap price of £1.05. This, I think, is more sensible than the sky-high figures I’ve seen elsewhere, and I expect the trend to continue throughout the industry. (Note that some authors, such as Cory Doctorow, have been giving away ebook versions of their commercial fiction for several years.)
My review of the device, together with some comments on how ebook readers might affect publishing, can be found as a guest post over at Scott Pack’s blog today.