As a writer who's never likely to make a lot of money off the work he does in his chosen form, I suppose I'm probably in the minority when it comes to the dustup between publishers and Google's book-scanning program, especially as it pertains to out-of-print books. There have been a number of lawsuits, but apparently Google and the publishers have reached a settlement where everyone gets a chunk of the ad revenue this will generate.
But it was this part at the end of the article that jumped out at me:
“I think that it is a stupendous victory for rights holders of the written word, because it has established that we should and must maintain control over the intellectual property that writers create and that we invest in,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, one of the parties to the suit brought on behalf of the Association of American Publishers.It's all very mercenary, isn't it? As I understand, most writers who create the work have very little control over their creations once they've been published, so this lawsuit isn't about them. I dare say that most writers whose books are out of print would love to give Google (or some other entity) the opportunity to scan their work into a giant database so as to increase the chances that others will read it some day.
It's obvious to me that publishers jumped into this fray not because of any great love they had for the work they'd let go out of print, but because they saw a chance for a revenue stream that they wouldn't have to work for. I don't imagine the revenues at this point will be all that great, but it's free money coming from a source they'd written off long ago.
Maybe the next step in the evolution of the publishing industry should involve deals between writers and publishers where, if a title goes out of print, the rights revert to the author, who is then free to try to market it elsewhere, even online. Then the creations are back in the hands of the creators and some of this problem would be avoided.