Google’s books strategy in tatters as judge rejects deal

23 Mar 2011

Google’s plans to put all books online are in disarray after a judge yesterday rejected its proposed settlement terms with authors and publishers as simply going too far.

The settlement would have allowed Google to sell access to millions of out-of-print books to consumers and libraries.

New York circuit court judge Denny Chin in a 48-page ruling expressed his concern that such a settlement would give Google greater control over the search and publishing markets.

Chin also said the deal presented privacy concerns because Google would be able to collect information on the kind of books that people were reading.

The case goes back to a settlement deal between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The latter two bodies sued Google to prevent it from scanning books and putting them on the web.

Under the deal, Google would pay the bodies US$125m and allow authors and publishers to collect money whenever their books are viewed online.

Google has the option of either appealing the judge’s decision or proposing new settlement terms.

The e-books revolution

The online books market is booming, thanks to innovations like Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales in January 2011 soared to US$69.9m when compared to $32.4m in January 2010 – a 115.8pc increase.

In December, Google launched a new Google e-bookstore in the US and plans to launch in other countries during 2011. The new store boasts 3m titles and the store is designed to be open to all devices, from netbooks to smartphones and e-readers.

The store also includes hundreds of thousands of books for sale from independent bookseller partners, including Powell’s, Alibris and participating members of the American Booksellers Association.

Using the new Google eBooks Web Reader, users can buy, store and read Google e-books in the cloud.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years