Google Books News

I just noticed this piece of news that up until now hasn't seemed to catch much steam in the major news media, but I think is of monumental importance:

the link is here:

Google just settled a suit with the Authors Guild (of America? not sure) giving them a great whack of cash in compensation for all of the books that Google has been scanning without the authors' permission. In the future, the authors will receive a portion of the money raised by the GoogleBooks site.

More important however, are the other aspects of the deal. In the future, libraries will be able to subscribe to GoogleBooks, allowing anyone within the library system access to the full book online. For us at universities, this means as long as we are logged onto our computers through the university 'node' we will have complete access to this vast wealth of information in a real-time, text-string-searchable manner. To take a quick example, let's say I am reading something about Foucault and suddenly find myself wondering what his opinion was of Gilles Deleuze. In moments, I could easily search all documents by Foucault for their references to Deleuze. Just like that. I would have an answer to my question in less than 10 minutes! Further, Google will be opening this vast array of data to researchers and 'data-miners' who will be able to excavate all kinds of interesting information from the data-set in-toto!

I think GoogleBooks (and the other associated and similar initiatives) is (and are) a great gift to humanity. Digitizing this information is greatly changing our relationship with it - how we understand and use it - and will continue to change it in ways that we can hardly understand yet. But for now I cannot foresee the negative consequences and I am thus absolutely in favour of these changes. Bravo Google!

update - 08-11-10 -
The news just hit the New York Times. Apparently, according to their story, the deal focuses primarily on books that are still under copyright but are out of print. This is of course a great thing for publishers who normally have no way of making money off of books that are in their catalog but are not in print. As the editor of The Bookseller apparently said, "Almost overnight, not only has the largest publishing deal been struck, but the largest bookshop in the world has been built, even if it is not quite open for business yet"!