US Government and Others Trying to Block Access to Books

The US Justice Department is trying to stop Google creating a digital library.  It’s not just the government. Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon don’t like this either. I just don’t get it.

I mean, I get why the three companies are fighting it. Microsoft and Yahoo don’t like Google having such a large share of the internet marketplace, particularly in terms of searches and results. They want their billions of dollars, too. Amazon is doing e-books and other digital access – in fact, it has had almost a monopoly – and it doesn’t want to see its market share challenged. It seems the only people who want this deal are authors, publishers, the general public, and Google.

Google plans to scan thousands of books that are in the public domain and give everyone free access to them. Microsoft and Yahoo can do the same thing, if they so desire. The books are, after all, in the public domain.

Google has also struck a deal with the Authors Guild to scan millions of out-of-print books that are still under copyright. Authors and publishers will manage their own rights to access and can refuse to allow a book to be used. If they do allow a book to be used, they will receive 67% of revenue generated from it. The revenue they otherwise receive from out-of-print books? $0. £0. 100% of 0.

Every public library will get complete access for free. Every college and university will be able to subscribe to the  same service. Every home user will get free access to 20% of the text of each book, so they can decide whether to buy access to the rest.  These are in-copyright out-of-print books that would otherwise be completely inavailable.

What is Google going to do with the books that are in print? Absolutely nothing. The actual book market as it is today will be untouched. However, millions of books that would otherwise been unavailable will be available again. Not just the odd copy in a used book shop or off the shelves of a distant library.

As the Authors Guild puts it:

Here’s the math: we expect the settlement to make at least 10 million out-of-print books available, which, at an average of 300 pages per book, represents at least 3 billion pages of professionally written, professionally edited text.  20% of that is 600 million pages of text available at every desktop computer in the U.S. as a free preview. (For comparison, Encyclopedia Britannica is about 44,000 pages in print form; Wikipedia’s featured articles total about 5,000 pages. All English Wikipedia articles, including stubs, total perhaps 3 million pages.)

This is the next great step in the information age.

The Latest Excuse for Terrorism

I think anyone would have to admit it was a mild response, by radical Islamic standards. The house and office of Martin Rynja, the UK publisher of The Jewel of Medina has been firebombed. The book, which has already been pulled by Random House in the US, tells the story of Muhammad and Aisha. Aisha was the wife he married when she was nine years old.

Of course there have been the usual fatwas calling for the death of the author, in this case Sherry Jones, but these seem to apply to anyone connected with publishing the book as well. It’s a good excuse to authorise the killing of as many infidels as possible. London-based radical cleric Anjem Choudhary is promising more attacks if the publication of the book goes ahead.

I’m not saying I support the publication of the book. Publishing any literature describing the sexual relationship between a nine-year-old and anyone should be in violation of all sorts of obscenity laws. But that’s not the problem for radical Muslim clerics. The forced marriage of pre-pubescent girls is not uncommon in the countries and cultures in which they were born. No, it’s that whole insult to Muhammad thing.

It’s not insulting to say that he had sex with a nine-year-old – that’s history. It seems it’s just insulting for an non-Muslim to write about him or for someone to novelise him. Apparently the book even tries to put a positive spin on this love story. You’d think the clerics would love that.