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Global Trade Talk: Global Reactions to the Revised Google Book Settlement Range from Praise to Resentment

By Siobhan O’Leary and Ed Nawotka

The revised Google Settlement has sparked a number of reactions, but notably, the strongest have been from Europe. Publishers Weekly explains that the revisions limit the settlement “to books that were either registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or published in the U.K., Australia or Canada,” thus limiting the agreement to the “four countries which share a common legal heritage and similar book industry practices.”

In the UK, the Bookseller reports that the Publishers Association will support the settlement provided. “The PA said this would give UK rights holders ‘more control over their works, and substantially decrease the risk of works being exploited without their explicit authorization,’ writes the Bookseller, adding, “It also guarantees representation for UK publishers on the Book Rights Registry’s Board of Directors.”

Of course, it was continental European publishers who objected most strongly to the terms (the BBC has a fine round-up here). In Germany, publishers and booksellers have had a mixed reaction to the amended Google Book Settlement, ranging from relief to anxiety. Prof. Dr. Gottfried Honnefelder, head of the Börsenverein, expressed his gratitude to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), among others, for their role in addressing the concerns of European publishers. As reported in the Börsenblatt and elsewhere, Honnefelder said that the Börsenverein would be reviewing the revised draft in the coming weeks to decide if further action is needed. Speaking to German radio channel Deutschlandradio Kultur, Honnefelder said, “Progress is now passing us by” and “The market that Google is supplying will still exist. We’ll be outside it and will not listed.” He emphasized the added importance now of creating a German digital library as part of Europeana and called for Europeans to unit in this effort.

In New Zealand—a country that one could argue also should be included in the group of “four”—Martin Taylor, founder of the New Zealand Digital Publishing Forum, observed on his blog: “Interestingly, many of those from countries excluded from the deal might now be asking themselves, ‘Why can’t we be in, too?’ Perhaps this is part of the clever psychology of the deal, creating an apparent ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ so that the excluded parties feel obliged to open negotiations with Google.”

Finally, in the United States, the backlash has begun. On Saturday, Peter Brantley, co-chair of Open Book Alliance, a lobby group backed by Google rivals Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo, called the deal in his blog post “sleight of hand.”

“None of the proposed changes appear to address the fundamental flaws illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public interest. By performing surgical nip and tuck, Google, the AAP, and the AG are attempting to distract people from their continued efforts to establish a monopoly over digital content access and distribution; usurp Congress’s role in setting copyright policy; lock writers into their unsought registry, stripping them of their individual contract rights; put library budgets and patron privacy at risk; and establish a dangerous precedent by abusing the class action process.”

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 13, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had my Kindle 2 for just under a month, and I’m already wishing there was a sure and economical way to convert my paper library (some 500 books) to a Kindle readable format.

    There have been a couple of issues, mind you. Everyone looking into the Kindle has probably heard about the font smoothing/contrast issue (which is exacerbated by the bright whiteness of the unit’s housing.) However, just last night, I ran across a couple of user fixes for the font smoothing problem, and I’ve already put a “skin” on mine so that the contrast between the ePaper display’s gray background and the “frame’s” white is no longer an issue.

    This device is so much more than JUST an ebook reader. Yesterday, I used it to access Google Maps in a location where I didn’t have a wifi network to do it on my iPod Touch. I can easily read my Gmail on it, as well as blogs I’ve subscribed to through Google Reader.

    And the on board dictionary is a bibliophile’s DREAM! Ever run across a word that’s unfamiliar, and think “I’ll have to look that up later,” and then forget to? Well, that won’t happen here, since there’s a dictionary integrated into the device. All you have to do is place the cursor to the left of the word, and it automatically shows up at the bottom of the screen. Every wonder how a word is pronounced? Just hit the enter button on the keyboard, and it takes you directly to the full dictionary entry, complete with pronunciation guide. Hit back to return to where you left off. You can also REPLACE the on board dictionary with one of your own choosing.

    You can also type in a word, phrase, or sentence from any page/screen, and search the current book you’re in, your items on the Kindle, the Kindle Store, Google, Wikipedia, or the On board Dictionary.

    You can place bookmarks in your books, as well as notations. Read something funny, and think you MUST share it with that someone special? It’s easy! Need to make notes for a class? Do it in a snap, and save paper while you do it!

    This is truly one of those MUST HAVE devices for those who love to read. Never take the wrong book along again. Always have fresh reading material at the touch of a few keys. “Feed the Elephant’s Child” to your heart’s content.

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