Google, Sony EBook Deal Raises Concerns

Sony ebook readerGoogle made Sony's Reader Digital Book more attractive to ebook fans on Thursday. A deal between the two tech giants makes 500,000 public domain book titles available to U.S. consumers for free. The books are out of copyright, which means they were published in 1923 or prior.

Sony's agreement with Google makes available more than 600,000 titles from its eBook Store, compared with 245,000 closed-format titles for Amazon's Kindle.

A button on the front page of Sony's eBook Store leads to the books from Google, which people can transfer to their PRS-505 or PRS-700 Reader at no cost. Those new to the store will need to set up an account and download Sony's free eBook Library software. Consumers without a Reader can read the text through Sony's free eBook Library software on a PC running Windows.

Through the Google Book Search project, the Mountain View, Calif. company has spent four years digitizing books from many of the world's leading libraries, including the Harvard University Library and New York Public Library. Digitized books range from Mark Twain to Jane Austen and other classic authors.

For books published since 1923, Google displays a "few snippets" of text around the search term after scanning it from one of the libraries, according to a Google spokeswoman. Google won't make all digitized books available through the Sony store.

Authors such as Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, who do not want their books digitized by Google and made available for free, can have the electronic copy removed or have a few pages posted for prospective buyers to peruse. "I can understand making out-of-print books available for free, though with print-on-demand publishing the author can bring back their book in electronic form after they have been out of print for many years," she said. "It might make sense for authors who are long-dead and gone, and their estate has been settled--but not for everyone."

DeMarco-Barrett isn't alone. Google recently settled a class action lawsuit with authors and publishers who claimed the plan to digitize books violates their copyrights.

Google, as part of the settlement in the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action lawsuit against its book scanning project, set up a $125 million fund to settle claims. DeMarco-Barrett heard that her book had been digitized and about the lawsuit earlier this month from her agent Betsy Amster at Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises, Los Angeles. "I didn't ask to have my book digitized and put on the Web," DeMarco-Barrett said. "Now, I have to spend time and undo something Google did."

Reports suggest that Google has run more than 200 advertisements in more than 70 languages in an effort to reach authors and publishers, especially copyright holders with books long out of print. It is part of the court's request under the proposed settlement reached on Oct. 28.

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