Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why the iPhone is a Better Reading Environment III

The Berkshire Encyclopedia of China in coverflow mode

The Page-turning feature that one frequently finds on Flash solutions for digital magazines or digital book readers, has always struck me as a dire software innovation. Unecessary, slow, boring -- because the page turning is always the same experience. Gimmicky: I have even seen versions which emulate turning a creaking page of parchment! An example of software ingenuity which is orthogonal to the direction of travel. I suspect that the method was originally introduced because Flash can be quite slow with large book files and the page turning covers up the download delays.

So, I was not overjoyed to see the first Dutch review of Exactly comparing the App's 'pageflow' feature to page-turning Flash catalogues (read the review in Google's englished version here). The review is otherwise OK, (I think its quite polite, but Google or I may have misunderstood something), but this seems to be a false comparison. Pageflow has some crucial advantages which page-turning does not match:
  1. The context of the book or the magazine is preserved in pageflow because the reader actually sees the pages flowing past in rapid sequence (it will be rapid if the connection is good) This is giving us a lot of information and it is preserving and in some respects enhancing the utility of the print object. The codex was a great invention! With a book you have a sense of 'how far' through the book you are. Using the slider button in Exactly you can actually navigate, slide through, the whole package and you can't do that with the merely serial page-turn in Flash.
  2. Although thumbnail pages do not give you enough detail to read a page properly, they give a surprising amount of information, even in books that are mostly full of plain text. The advertisements in magazines or illustrations in fancy books are clearly very handy in the thumbnail mode.
  3. Connected point: some of the puritanical types who argue for eBooks, seem to assume that the only point of a book is to read it. Perhaps because we have also lived with magazines, we think that skimming is good. There are many ways of reading a book or a magazine, and reading some of it and skimming the rest is OK (in my book). The pageflow mode is ideal for skimming. Please skim with a good conscience using pageflow.
  4. Final point: the ergonomics of the iPhone. Taking advantage of the iPhone's shape and size, pageflow enables the iPhone to be useful in different ways according to the way you orient it. The portrait mode (right way up) is obviously the right way to read a portrait page. With Exactly the reader has two landscape options, 90° anticlockwise which puts the App and the iPhone in pageflow mode, and 90°clockwise which gives the best landscape mode for reading close text. I hope that this option set (which I have only as yet seen in Exactly) becomes a general convention for iPhone Apps that want to use pageflow or coverflow. Notice that the small size of the iPhone makes this use of orientation as giving alternative modes of navigating the text an even easier and more attractive option. I am sure that the mooted iPhone/tablet will also support these features and gestures, but if Apple had started with a tablet the size of the MacBook Air, we might not have seen orientation as such a strong element in their 'touch' interface.

Using pageflow to find a specific page

Swing the iPhone to read the page selected

Once again the small size of the iPhone is, in a curious way an advantage, in that it has pushed Apple and App developers to innovate. The Kindle did not originally offer a landscape mode, but perhaps under the influence of the iPhone it now does. It is a matter of some interest to me that the 4th side of the iPhone (180°rotation), the portrait mode -- wrong way up, has not yet been found a use within the Exactly App. Perhaps this should become a way of navigating a library, of switching between books or magazine titles within a subscription? I am sure that the development team will think of a better use and a better solution.... but turning the book upside down surely has its uses?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New iPhone App: "Exactly"

Apple yesterday accepted the digital editions App that we have been developing for some months. It is now has in the App Store. Exactly is the Free Exact Editions App, from which any title on the Exact Editions platform can be read on the iPhone.

Search for 'Exactly' in the iPhone App store and you will find it there, with this brief description:

Exactly brings magazines and books to the iPhone in their original full-colour format. Each page is delivered just as it appeared in the print edition, but with live links to web sites, phone numbers and more. Access free content from over 80 titles, or use your subscription to read the latest issues on the day they're published.

  • Pinch or double tap pages to zoom.
  • Swipe pages left and right, or tap the page edges to flip to next/previous page
  • Use the animated thumbnail view to flick through the pages.
  • Tap any page links to web sites, email addresses, phone numbers or maps.
  • Tap contents-page links to jump to a particular article.
  • Network connection required.
Free, gratis, etc

More stuff will be added to the App in the coming months, and we expect to deliver Branded Apps through which magazines and books (maybe newspapers?) will be sold directly on subscription through the App store. This is an exciting new stage in the development of the Exact Editions reading platform. We think the iPhone has a lot going for it and we aim to make it work well with digital editions.

Maybe the coolest feature of the Exactly App is the way that it gives the user a new way of accessing a publication. 'Pageflow', similar to the 'coverflow' with which users can skim their CD covers on the iPhone. The 'pageflow' feature comes when the iPhone is twisted 90° anticlockwise.

Pageflow of the magazine Opera

When the iPhone swings back to the portrait mode the publication will be open at the page reached in skimming the pageflow. If you close the Exactly App and then open it a few hours or days later, it will open at the title that you last looked at, exactly at the page you had reached when last reading the magazine or book. I find this most helpful. The framework Apple have built for making these Apps is ingenious. I am sure that there will be lots more good stuff coming, from Apple and from the Exact development team.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Twitter and the Wossybookclub

In conformity with our policy of conducting R&D on the project of a Twitter Book Club in public (see earlier posts here, here and here) and in response to the first session of Jonathan Ross's wossybookclub, which took place yesterday, it seems appropriate to give some provisional reactions to it in the open:

  1. The session clearly worked. It ran for an hour and wossy must have been busy, since everything went through him (as a retweet or a response by him). 130 postings in an hour. The style of discourse was thus more like a chat-show on radio -- with no possiblity for genuine group discussion. This does put a lot of focus on the keyman, and suggests that the specific format (a 'star' formation with everything going through wossy) may not be completely scaleable. Would wossy be able to cope with an Oprah-size audience? The @atwossybookclub currently has under 6,000 followers. What happens with 60K followers at a book group? Managing 130 interactions in an hour of tweeting strikes me as pretty good going, and I can't see Jonathan Ross wanting to do this for two hours.
  2. As well as the public and official record of tweeting at @atwossybookclub, there was a parallel search stream at #wossybookclub; making this an official back-channel may be a way of broadening the audience without putting wossy in hospital with RSI
  3. The author (Jon Ronson, on holiday in Sardinia, and tweeting from his iPhone) contributed to the discussion. A book group with the author present and listening! That clearly works, and perhaps the idea needs to be adapted, shall we say Twitter-twigged, so that Twitter becomes a medium for online 'author signing sessions'. Kind of virtual 'author tours'?
  4. The web service at our end also worked: The Men Who Stare at Goats was open to the whole web for precisely an hour. This time the switch was flipped manually, but it could easily be automated. 30/60/90 minute sessions pre-set to be open for particularly topical books or TV shows? Usage increased, it was busy, but it certainly wasn't overwhelming (the servers were not seen to emit clouds of white smoke and steam). Next time the publisher may wish to consider opening the book up for discussion a few hours before the discussion begins, that would encourage Tweeting participants to reference the digital edition, which in turn will encourage more people to buy the digital edition.
  5. There was one reference to a specific page in the book, and wossy RT'ed this. Since we put it up using, we know that it was activated nearly 300 times. A citation that went into the #wossybookclub was only hit 23 times. So the audience was looking at the links as well as reading wossy's tweets. For a first time live book club session on Twitter that looks to be a pretty strong validation of the concept.

Wossy has said that he does not want to develop the vehicle for personal gain. We can understand that position, but it might be worth reconsidering. If Wossy wont, I hope that Stephen Fry will. Doing 50 books a year would be A LOT of work and for the publishing industry it could be a highly significant new sales channel. The concept of 'celebrity-led' book reading and online book discussion has a lot going for it, but it will work even better if there is a stronger commercial infrastructure (perhaps funded by sales of the digital editions that would be used in the Tweeting). We look forward to seeing the proposition evolve and to working with publishers who are keen to develop the digital audience -- Picador and PanMacmillan have been excellent partners and promoters of this exploration, as has Jon Ronson the author.

I enjoyed the book (read the digital edition, of course) and you can still buy a subscription to the digital edition here (limited to purchasers in the UK and Eire); and in all parts of the world you can read the clever opening chapter here. Having read the book and raved about it to one of my children, I am now committed to buying a copy in print (son is out of webshot) and will certainly catch the film when it comes out later in the year with George Clooney and Ewan McGregor.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Twittering Publishers

Twitter may be a lot more important for publishers than most of them (us) realize. Few publishers would have a clue as to what Twitter means to their business model. Since Twitter still has not worked out its own business model, a matter of some general amazement to the illustrious VC's and industry watchers who follow it, this may not be all together surprising.

But here are three reasons why publishers of books and magazines should be VERY interested in Twitter:

  1. A great deal of Twittering is really about linking your friends/followers to stuff that you have seen or read. Twitter is an ideal medium for sharing information about good books or magazines, especially as they get on to the web as genuine web resources. All those tinyurls and's are citations. This is the direct response network that the web has promised publishers and authors.
  2. (With apologies for a fragment of technospeak here), the Twitter 'social graph' with its asymmetrical follow/follower relationships is functionally analogous to the 'lectoral graph' of our reading patterns. You may have read a lot of the books and magazines that I have read, but there will certainly be a lot of non-overlap, and we will be as patchilly intermittent in our following as many of us are in our reading. Being able to connect to people who have read the same stuff as us, may be as important to us as being able to search the books that we have read or will read.
  3. The key role of 'bestsellers' in the world of publishing and the importance of 'celebrities', or 'real experts', in the world of twitter. Trade publishers know how important celebrities are to publishing, so we had better figure out how this celebrity-hood in Twitterdom can multiply or interact with success in bookselling or digital magazines.
I have no more idea than anyone else what the ultimate or even the proximate business model of Twitter is going to be. My own hunch is that 'real time' search is not the key issue, much more important is the pattern of relationships and the elaborate web of communication that the service is weaving between its millions of users. This is why we have been following the Twitter Bookclub rumblings with avid interest, and helping the wossy project to get going with a digital edition of the first selection The Men who Stare at Goats. Something interesting will happen in this space in the next few months, if not with the wossybookclub, then with something similar. By this time next year Twitter will have found a business model and I will not be surprised if some strands of that model are quite closely intertwined with what publishers have done and need to do.

If writers and readers enjoy talking, twittering and sharing their experience of reading, then more books will be read, more books will be sold and the publishers who facilitate this will have played the part of concierge, that is their digital metier.

PS You can follow my Twitter stream here. And you can follow Daryl's here.

Goats and Crop Marks

There has been rapid movement on the Twitter book club front, since our posting of a few days ago. Twitter moves very fast and wossy has announced his first few titles. As luck would have it the first pick, The Men Who Stare at Goats, was in short supply in the bookshops and at Amazon -- a film is coming out later in the year, new printings must be in hand. There were ebook and audio book editions available but not many print copies in the warehouse.

At any rate Picador (PanMacmillan) who publish the book in the UK realised the advantages of having a digital edition of the book available to the wossy book club. They also saw that the streaming solution that Exact Editions provides is an excellent way of amplifying the immediate impact of the Tweeting that is going on as we speak, the streaming solution can be opened up for a publicity phase, much more feasibly than a download ebook solution. So they asked us to put up a sample, and to offer subscritpions to the digital edition when the full sampling spree comes to an end. The sample is here.

There is the added bonus that bloggers can use the ExactEditions clipper tool (works much better with FireFox) to post small tweet relevant quotations (limited to at most 10% of page). Which is why the crop marks matter, its on the basis of crop marks, or preferably with trim boxes set, that Exact Editions know the boundaries of a page in the PDF files that publishers send us. Unless the publisher requests greater openness the clipping is restricted to 10% of the page which is close to a traditional understanding of reasonable copying for purposes of quotation, appreciation etc (ie 'fair dealing').

When it came to putting up the book in a test account, I noticed that there was quite a bit of discussion in the office about whether the PDF file had crop marks or not. Somehow this struck me as very funny as I had this image of the goat nibbling its own crop marks. So I was delighted to find that there really are goat crop marks in the page layout of the title, at least at the bottom of the page: there are ornamental goats at the corners. On the recto page the goat has keeled over and on the verso page the goat is the right way up. Here is an ex-goat, or what Monty Python would call a no-longer-goat:

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Twitter Book Club

At the weekend we were startled to find that Jonathan Ross had a stunningly good idea. An idea that should have occurred to us sooner. Wossy, who twitters a lot, thought about starting a book club and one of the books he mentioned for his wheeze was the Bloomsbury book, Kate Summerscale's, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. This mention alerted us because that is one of the titles in the Bloomsbury Library offering that uses the Exact Editions platform. One of my colleagues either follows wossy, or has a Google Alert out for Mr Whicher: not completely sure which, er....

If you do not live in the UK, you may not know too much about Jonathan Ross. But you can tell he has quite a hold on his audience when you see that his crowd of Twitter followers exceeds 250K. How then should a Twitter book club work? Well it could simply be a stream of tweets about a particular book and wossy has pushed off with one already. The Men Who Start at Goats. Follow the conversation here.

A good idea which could be even better. Here are our suggestions for how this could evolve into a commercial proposition for someone:

  1. A celebrity chooses the book and each book gets a week of attention. Wossy has done this bit
  2. Wossy needs to persuade the publisher (and the author or agent, if they need persuading) that this is a good idea and put the book on Open Access for a week whilst the Twitter stream goes to full volume. While this happens the book will get a lot of attention. In the shops. The Open Access platform might be a streaming solution such as Exact Editions runs, so the taps can be switched on at the start of the week and off at the end. (If any agent thinks that putting a book on open access for a week is going to exhaust the market for his book, he needs to find another profession, or another author).
  3. Not to beat about the bush (pulling the light from out of the bushel), there is another big advantage of using the Exact Editions platform in a promotional event such as this: every page in the books can be the subject of a direct link. Tweets can cite the books as they appear in the discussion. This type of public conversation really needs a method of targetting specific pages. Especially since Twitter is not going to have the space to allow real hand-crafted, cut and pasted, quotations. (Light goes back behind bushel, muttering that any distribution system for this idea, also has to handle the e-commerce).
  4. After the week of tweeting and general discussion, the Open Access finishes but the printed book can of course be acquired through the bookshops, or a digital subscription to it taken out through the digital platform.
  5. At this point some costs have been incurred and a slice of revenue would be earmarked by the distribution and e-commerce platform (bushel smiles). For the sake of argument a Scribd type of percentage might be enough.
  6. That still leaves the majority of the revenue from this exercise which clearly goes to the publisher and the author.
Why are we broadcasting this idea in public, rather than gently sidling up to Wossy, or Stephen Fry or Oprah or whoever, with an NDA in our fists, and persuading them to do it? Mostly because NDA's seem such an untwitterish way to think about it!

Perhaps someone has a better idea. At any rate there is no copyright in ideas, and not much of a copyright in twitter streams: so if there is a better idea about the twitter book club it has our blessing. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to bounce the idea back at us, we look forward to hatching plans with publishers, agents, Oprah, Stephen Fry, the Real Shaq, or whoever. Let's see it working.... Twitter is good for books.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why the iPhone is a Better Reading Environment II

The touchscreen interface to the iTouch and the iPhone was a crucial innovative step. So far as I know, Apple got this right from the beginning. No false steps. Just a really good system that is steadily getting better (OK -- I grant you that the touch screen keyboard is not yet the best part of the iPhone system).

There are two key ways in which the touch interface helps the iPhone to become the best digital reading device, in spite of its very small size.

First, the touch screen allows the user to shrink or enlarge the page with simple 'pinch' or 'spread' moves of paired fingers. Because we use our fingers to stretch or compress the page, and the image responds immediately, it is very easy to achieve a high level of control of image resolution. It would be much harder to do this work with the conventional touchpad or mouse of a desktop PC. The facility with which the page can be resized (web page, or digital facsimile, eg JPEG in the case of Exact Editions) means that on the iPhone platform, at least, there is much less pressure for the 'reflowable' text beloved of eBook enthusiasts. There is really no need to reflow text to achieve a different point size, when the whole page can be resized with finger pinching. In fact, the digital edition on the iPhone wins this contest hands down because, of course, images and complex layouts are also easily and straightforwardly resized on the iPhone. This is notoriously difficult to achieve on specialised ebook devices -- they tend to be defeated by highly illustrated format, or books with lots of tables and code. The touchable screen with its rescaleable pages solves these problems at a stroke (or at worst with a pinch). Just use the image in the book or magazine as the designer laid it out.

But the second, equally important, advantage of the touch screen interface to the text on an iPhone is that it has forged a very direct relationship between the text as presented on screen and the functionality available to users with the text. We only need to touch the text to act through it. To use it to launch our actions. The links, the urls, the email addresses (and with Exact Editions the telephone numbers) within the text become tangible, immediately indexical resources.

A page of Time Out London with live links in green

The text contains the link (it was there explicitly in the book), markup ensures that the system (the iPhone) knows that a link is a link, or a postcode is a postcode, and the user knows (or after a little trial and error discovers) that by tapping a link she will jump to a web page, a post code will jump to a Google map, and a live phone number will initiate a phone call, from the iPhone.

Necessity is the mother of invention, in the case of the iPhone, as elsewhere. There is not enough room on the device to support a mouse-device or a touchpad, other than the screen. So the screen had to be touchable. But there is no doubt that the Apple engineers have crafted an extraordinarily effective solution. As more books are piled into the iPhone's eco-system, I think we will see that there is a growing realisation that the digital text of a book or a magazine should be seen as the starting point for network based interaction with it. The text itself is the starting point, within it are located the points, the referrers, codes and symbols which engender user interaction. The digital version of a text, having many explicit or implicit resources for linkage and reference becomes a hypertext in its own right and one which engages the reader in more than mere reading. Much of this interaction will be initiated by finger gestures. For sure, reading is part of the point of a digital edition, but equally, it has to be said that, pointing is fully a part of the reading of a book on the iPhone.

There is another key feature in the iPhone device which makes it such a good reading medium. Orientation. But we will discuss that on another occasion....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Putting up Shelves in Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury Library Online went live last week. It had been announced at the London Book Fair a few weeks ago. This is a library proposition in two senses: it is a plan for selling subscriptions to groups of books through public libraries, and it is a set of themed shelves of books from the overall Bloomsbury list. A proposition for libraries and a plan for offering a customisable and curated library from Bloomsbury. They explain the concept as follows:

.......... using existing technology in libraries across the country, Bloomsbury is rolling out a groundbreaking e-lending strategy which will allow readers to read collections of bestselling books at local library terminals or with the use of a library card on home computers and internet enabled devices.

The Bloomsbury Library Online will consist of a number of themed shelves: children’s books, sports titles, international fiction, Shakespeare plays, reference books and more. They will launch with a shelf of Book Group titles including Galaxy Book of the Year, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale, Orange Prize longlisted Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie, word-of-mouth phenomenon The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, and international bestseller The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri. Embracing the advantages of the online format, users will be able to read the book, search the text, access author interviews, reviews, press features, and links to specially commissioned reading group guide. Bloomsbury web site
Bloomsbury's project required us to develop our platform in ways that we had not previously considered necessary. They wanted to be able to sell books as groups, and although this was not part of the formal requirement, we suspected that the next publisher to adopt this strategy would wish to be able to sell books in groups (ie 'shelves') but also to sell the same books as individual titles, both to individuals and to institutional subscribers. And the next publisher would want to include the same book in multiple shelves, and then remove them from some shelves.....There were also knock on effects on the way that the site would be navigated, the marketing pages within the site would unfold, and the way in which promotions to titles or groups of titles would work. Finally, we needed to understand what happens with renewals, when books are coming into and perhaps falling out of shelves in midstream? In short, what had looked like a fairly simple additional requirement led us to take another look at our ontology. Until this point about shelves came up, I dont think I had grasped that we already had an ontology. In January we did not have an ontology for shelves of books, but now we do. Since Bloomsbury appear to be capable of producing a lot more shelves, this is a good thing.

The Exact Editions platform can now manage sets of books aggregated by a publisher (Bloomsbury's Teen Fiction Shelf, or their Book Group Shelf), as well as individual books and collections of books that might be selected by an account holder. We are not yet managing sets of sets of books, but I understand that it would be possible to do this, should the need arise. And it surely will arise: eg within a large fiction collection, where you might want to be able to group all the titles by a particular author as a sub-shelf, within the overall shelf of detective fiction. We will not however be working with shelves of books that are not members of shelves... this conundrum can be left for the digital remainder merchants.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Why the iPhone is a better Reading Environment I

People have noticed that the iPhone is becoming a great environment in which to do some serious reading. But I am not sure that we have yet fully recognised why it has changed our expectations of the optimum digital reading environment. One point was recently well made by Hugh McGuire the Canadian blogger, publisher, philosopher. (He also leads Librivox).

My experience of reading news on iphone is totally different than reading on the web: on the web I flit from place to place, on the iPhone I read much like I would a newspaper ... going through the whole thing, reading multiple articles. And as mentioned I might possibly pay for it on the iPhone.

I think this is a fascinating shift in my content consumption ... back to an older, more focused kind of reading. (Quoting Hugh McGuire from an email).
This is a subtle point. The iPhone is a better reading environment because it is NOT completely of the web. I think its really a point about the way Apps work on the iPhone, rather than the way that the web, or Safari, works on the iPhone. In my experience, browsing the web on my iPhone is just about as mercurial and unsticky as browsing from the laptop, but the apparatus of the App (only one App at a time, they take a moment or two to fire up) tends to give them some valuable friction. A retaining wall, which if it is not a 'walled garden' is something like a 'reader's carrel'. There is a threshold with each App, which keeps you within the App in which you are browsing; whereas when one is reading a news site on the wild web it is just too easy to be distracted. Every link is a link out. Its too easy to flip over to something else, there are no boundaries to a web newspaper or a web magazine. But there are some subtle boundaries to an App which is branded for a newspaper or a magazine.

It could be that the 'Appy' quality of serious reading on the iPhone is the key to developing an effecitve publishing culture in that environment. There is a lesson here for book, magazine and newspaper publishers. Get your Apps in order!

There is another reason that the iPhone reading experience is subtly different. Touching. There is something special about touching what you read, more about this on another occasion....

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Kindle and Digital Magazines

We are quite often asked whether the Exact Editions platform works on the Kindle. To which we have a number of answers:

  1. The Kindle is not available in Europe so we have never tested it and are not sure whether the web pages we serve would work on the non-standard browser that the Kindle offers its users. There is no word on when the Kindle is coming to Europe and I would say "Dont hold your breath".
  2. The Kindle does not support colour, and most magazines really benefit from colour, so we dont regard the Kindle as an ideal magazine reading platform.
  3. The Kindle supports re-flow (text can expand or shrink more or less at will) that is not a feature that would work with Exact Editions. We deliver pages the way they were designed. Exactly as they were laid out by the artist or repro house.
  4. The Exact Editions pages and images can be easily zoomed or shrunk (especially on the iPhone). That doesnt work on the Kindle.
  5. The Exact Editions system makes pages highly interactive, so web urls are live as are email addresses, phone numbers can be clicked to call (again a great resource on the iPhone, but no help on the Kindle)
  6. The content on the Kindle is tightly controlled by Amazon, and they probably would not be pleased to have content passed their way be a technology partner (Apple are very different on this) and they strike tight and onerous deals with their publishing partners. Probably no room for Exact Editions in that clinch. If Amazon wants to have magazines on their platform they will approach the publishers direct.
It is not quite a matter of chalk and cheese, but it would be fair to say that Kindle looks at the world of digital books and digital editions in a very different way than Exact Editions. We feel that Google and Apple are more kindred spirits.

Monday, May 04, 2009

GBS: What if the Judge rejected the Settlement?

Here is an interesting comment on the Google Books Settlement that came up in an email exchange a couple of days ago:

I don't think anyone (other than the plaintiff's lawyers) feels good about the settlement as written. As Pamela Samuelson noted, "the settlement, if approved, will shape the future of reading, research, writing, and publication practices for decades to come." I don't think anyone knows what this future will look like, which is troubling.

I have not, however, heard with certainty that the court has the ability to modify the settlement. So the best we could hope for is that the settlement is rejected and the parties in the suit then reopen the discussion, but this time with the open and active participation of public interest groups, librarians, and a broader range of authors and publishers (in order to better represent the diverse interests of the class). I think that there is a snowball's chance in hell of that happening. If it did, it would take years.

So the bottom line, if the settlement is approved, the public in the US will have access to millions of volumes that are otherwise inaccessible to them. They will get it online via book search, and they will get it through the free license to public libraries (something that there was no reason for Google to include, except out of public interest). As long as we have a copyright system that treats every out-of-print scholarly work as if it is the latest Hollywoood blockbuster, I don't see any other way we could get access to this content.

...... it may not be perfect, but that doesn't [necessarily] mean that it isn't good.
This came from Peter Hirtle, a lawyer and a librarian who blogs at LibraryLaw. I find this pretty convincing but also depressing. Peter Hirtle presumably shares some of the reservations of Pam Samuelson, perhaps also of Bob Darnton, but he thinks that the Google Books Settlement will give us a lot that we would not otherwise get. Realism beats idealism.

It could be that the Google Books Library would be a lot better if it was more open and now is the time at which the demands for open-ness should be made. Whether or not the judge has flexibility in making his ruling, it would seem clear that the court of public opinion will have an effect on the way in which Google and the Books Rights Registry operate, post settlement.

Is it even possible that the best solution for Google might even be to have the Settlement rejected, or thrown back for negotiated amendment? If the Settlement and its anticipated services rolls out just as it has been formulated, specified and agreed by the parties, Google will be required to become an enforcer and an exploiter of the intellectual property in the orphan copyrights. Google will be in a very prominent and exposed position, comparable to Elsevier (which has become a kind of whipping boy for libraries and universities), or even worse, it will become subject to monopolies investigations.

I am sure that Google would deny that rejection would be an outcome that they desire. Hey they reached agreement with the plaintiffs and have a lot invested in making the settlement work! But they did agree to a postponement and if the Settlement is rejected, there is only one company that can really make a more open solution work. Google. Google would then probably propose to simply run a search service with most content well sheltered behind a meagre snippeting results service which will not have significant liabilities for Google. They would retreat to their original 'card index', simple search solution. Access will be restricted unless the plaintiffs can propose and agree to a solution which will meet the judge's tests. The Publishers and the Guild will be in a much more awkward position. Chess players have a term for it: zugzwang. None of the legally permitted moves is attractive and its the Authors and the Publishers turn to move. Are the Authors going to pay for the Books Rights Registry? Are they going to really want to sue Google till the pips squeak? Are the publishers going to insist that searching and promoting the discoverability of orphan books is not a good thing?

No. Google has shown that it is willing to do some work, to solve problems and move things forward. The publishers and the authors have no consistent leadership and will dance attendance to the tune that Google composes. The judge has a strong hand to play here and it will be in all our interests (Google's, authors, and publishers included) if he puts some public interest algorithms into the equation of settlement.