I’ve always been a fan of Google’s. The company has done an amazing job of predicting the online market and the progression of modern technology, well enough to see its stock remain one of the largest in recent years. It’s contested Apple and Intel to that same effect, paving the way for a brighter internet future.
Now it has Google Books to add to its list of ever-expanding uses. You can read entire books on its Web site. Not the three-page preview you get on Amazon, but the whole thing. In most cases, at least. Hugo’s Les Mis is “limited,” but it shows 738 pages anyway, so it’s basically just the abridged version.
Now it is coming under fire from the DOJ, but that’s to be expected. Anything that’s being transferred to digital and online resource is going through the copyright and antitrust debates.
What becomes difficult about it is the same problem that’s plagued media for the last decade or so: how do you make money from that? It’s obvious that this is a format that needs and wants to be embraced by society, but it is impossible to make a profit off of. People can take a PDF of the book and upload it to their Web site. Or they’ll settle for the 3/4 they can read online. More than anything, people who would actually take the time to read what’s available on Google Books wouldn’t buy the book, they’d just read it on the site.
Just like with news print, with movies, music, and–yes–even with television, no answer has presented itself as to how to make a profit. The larger demand for large amounts of convenient media has destroyed its business model, and Google Books is just the latest example.
Of course companies are filing suits with the DOJ. They lose money. But it wouldn’t do the media that much good to see something like Google Books go under at the decision of a court. It just means that the economics need to be rethought.