Interview by Nicholas Gary
Yesterday’s news about Hachette Livre’s deal with Google to scan and sell 40 to 50,000 out-of-print books came as something of a surprise to many. Could the same thing happen in Germany?
Annabella Weiss, the manager for Google Books for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, won’t say. But she did speak with Nicholas Gary of Actualitté, about what Google Book’s outlook is for the German-speaking countries of Europe. And while she doesn’t offer the suggestion that a similar deal is in the works for a German publisher, she does say that Google is open to partnerships and believes there is strong potential for Google Editions in the region.
Nicholas Gary: For the past few years, Germany has been engaged in a very public debate about literary copyright issues, particularly with regard to the Google Books Settlement. How is going now ?
Annabella Weiss: We are working with a large number of German publishers in a variety of areas, including trade publishers, fiction, scientific presses and others. All these partners see the benefit of working with Google to digitize their content in order to find new readers around the world. For our publisher partners we make a small portion of books pre-viewable — this makes it possible for users to find a book and decide whether they want to purchase. It’s a marketing opportunity for the publisher, who can attract readers online. When we launch Google Editions, it will make it even simpler to purchase books online.
NG: German publishers are increasingly providing their own solutions to sell e-books. What is your stance on fixed price laws for books and e-books ?
AW: We always respect local law, and in countries with a fixed prices for e-books such as in Germany and we will, of course, sell books at fixed price. Publishers will determine the price and we will sell accordingly.
NG: What do you think of the German e-book market?
AW: The e-book market in Germany is still nascent, and there are a variety of different readers on the market. What the most successful devices will be in the future, nobody can tell right now — different readers will use different devices to read digital content, e.g. dedicated e-ink readers, laptops, netbooks, tablets or smartphones. Mobility and portability will be crucial. Google Editions will offer an interesting model for publishers and readers, since one has the flexibility and choice to read online or offline across various kinds of devices. The books will be stored on a virtual book shelf, and can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
NG: What kind of relationship does Google have with Libreka? Will there be partnerships with Google Editions, like in the United States with the American Booksellers Association?
AW: The job of digitizing the the world’s books is an enormous task, one that can only be achieved through efforts by public and private entities around the world. So we support all efforts in this direction, including Libreka. We want to see efforts like these succeed, and we’re open to working with Libreka on projects in the future.
NG: And just for the fun . . . which German author, in your opinion, is the worst?
AW: I have tried to read Heidegger several times and did not understand a word. But what really causes me physical pain are Fassbinder’s films.