Hewlett-Packard, which, aside from PCs, is a giant in imaging, is taking on Google on the book front and has thrown the gauntlet down via a partnership with the University of Michigan, one of Google's most important partners in its online book offering, because it has one of the great academic research libraries. First, check the story I wrote at BNET for the details
. I really do think that HP has outsmarted Google on its own territory.
That's the view from the business and tech front, but let's consider what this means for writers. Remember that there's still wrangling over negotiations on the class action suit by writers and publishers. (I opted out, considering it a bad deal, so don't have a direct personal stake in it.) The HP announcement would seem likely to have a big impact on how the discussions are going:
- Google is going to point to this as proof that there is competition and that it's not closing things off.
- The writers and publishers should argue that the HP deal shows that there's no need to grab rights going forward.
- The judge might well see the HP deal as proof that handing over rights to so-called orphaned works (still in copyright but the rights holder difficult to ascertain or find) is bad from a market view because it would provide a sanctioned advantage to one company over another.
My short take, for whatever it's worth, is that the HP entry is going to do more to kill the rights grab than almost anything else that could have happened. On the balance, the argument becomes that there's no need for a special deal and that Google or any other company can clearly go into business looking at public domain works and that they don't need to have an extraordinary access to the intellectual property rights of individuals or organizations.
Furthermore, this gives Google a competitive kick in the rear. Since HP is doing it, why not Xerox, which is also big in imaging? Why not Amazon? IBM? It's a case where more is merrier, at least for those of us who own book rights. In fact, I'm wondering why some of the organized writers groups don't do something equal to HP's tactics. Instead of protesting, often long after the horse is out of the barn, some activity, create something practical instead. How about partnering with an Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Xerox or someone who might have the wherewithal to create a competing service. Think of it as an iUniverse that is actually effective - able to store scanned or reproduced books, create paper copies on demand, take and fulfill orders, split revenues. Negotiate with a few and use that as leverage to get a better deal out of one, rather than getting tied into an Amazon "you can have 35 percent" deal. That
would be real activism, because it could be effective and makes the market system work for writers, rather than the other way around.Image courtesy of stock.xchng user designkryt.
Labels: authors, books, Google, publishing, rights