As a recent college graduate, I remember trying to search for books and articles when writing my research paper and thinking how great it would be to able to search the contents of the books online before I checked them out. Instead, I’d go to the Hatcher Graduate Library and check out twenty books we had on the topic du jour and then promptly return all but two books because the others had no bearing on what I was writing. I realized it was possible to search the contents of books online in my sophomore year, when the Google Books Project came to our campus to scan our collection. Since Google Books enables you to search the contents of the scanned books, I was able to narrow down the amount of books I checked out for my papers and I spent less time sorting through irrelevant information.
On November 14th, US Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin decided in favor of Google, stating that their book scanning project does not violate the terms of “fair use”. Judge Chin concluded that Google Books provides “significant public benefit” including benefitting the “progress of the arts and sciences” while still respecting the rights of authors and copyright holders (The Authors Guild et al. vs Google Inc. (2013)).
Google Books doesn’t give you access to the entire book, so you can’t read the latest Janet Evanovich novel without paying for it; you can choose to “Get This Book in Print” to purchase a copy though. Books in the public domain, however, are fully readable. The project does give life to old books that had otherwise sat on the shelf, seldomly used. Patrons are able to find what they need much faster than they were able to previously, and in an era where time is valuable, increasing discoverability is everything.
How the Google Books Decision Affects Libraries
“It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.” -The Authors Guild et al. vs Google Inc. (2013)
Judge Chin summed up the benefits for libraries in his overall assessment. The book-scanning project enables libraries to access books that they might not have had access to previously. These libraries can search for books and use the results to make a more informed decision in regards to adding them to their collection.
Google Books allows libraries to have digital copies of the books they already have; the libraries are then able to use these digital copies to advance their usefulness, within the means of copyright. For instance, these libraries can provide their digital copies to print-disabled individuals who would have otherwise been unable to read the printed versions; digital copies can be used with various softwares that allow for text enlargement or converting text to speech and they can be converted to be accessible on Braille reading devices.
For those who find a book while using Google Books, readers can easily find out if their local library has a copy (like our BookLook Mobile™ feature) under the “Get this book in print” drop-down list.
Several major universities from across the world have partnered with the Google project to allow anyone with an internet connection access to their collections. John P. Wilkin, an Associate University Librarian at the University of Michigan, wrote this in regards to the Google Books Project: “The project with Google is core to our mission as a great public university to advance knowledge – on campus and beyond. By joining this partnership that makes our library holdings searchable through Google, UM serves as an agent in an initiative that radically increases the availability of information to the public. The University of Michigan embraces this project as a means to make information available as broadly and conveniently as possible.”
As Mathew Ingram of Gigaom said, “whatever you think of Google as a company, the book-scanning decision is the right one”.