More power to Google

On Thursday, Google’s latest project that will allow people to read books that have gone out of print, will go live. In partnership with On Demand Books, the Espresso Book Machine will print in 4 minutes flat, on demand, any book of upto 300 pages from a list of over 2 million books whose copyright period has expired or whose authors have given permission for them to be used by Google. All this at a cost of less than $10 to the user and $3 to the bookshop that owns the vending machine, which is to cover the cost of the materials. The machine costs a whopping $100,000 but quite a few locations already have it, including Blackwell’s in London. Here’s how it works:

I was really glad to read about this, and hope that it does not run into stormy weather like the Google Books deal has, where the US Justice Department has urged a New York court to reject this deal. Just as with the continuing debate over free, I wonder how long anyone can prevent it from coming to life. Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ is selling more e-copies on the Kindle than hard copies via Amazon, and that’s because there are enough people are willing to buy the e-version though they have access to the hard copy. If the situation is reversed and enough people decide they’d prefer to read out-of print books in the flesh rather than online, where Google Books will likely have an e-copy available, can Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo, who are among the companies that object to the Google Books deal, continue to stand their ground? THAT will be an interesting conversation to follow.