December 8, 2010

GoogleBS: It's still out there …


Okay, so the last couple of days have belonged pretty unequivocally to Google eBooks, formerly Google Editions — despite the best efforts of some of Google’s competitors to distract attention. (Barnes & Noble launched the color Nook. Borders leaked that it wants to buy Barnes & Noble. Amazon announced it was issuing a Kindle widget that would allow anyone to sell ebooks, which will be available in, er, a few months. And Apple — well, hell, Apple’s way too cool to get involved in this kind of pitiful clamoring for the limelight. They just sat back and let everyone make fools out of themselves.)

But what about that other big Google story? You know, the big one — not this new one about how they sell ebooks, but the other one, about how they control ebooks? Right — the Google Book Search Settlement! Whatever happened to that?

Funny you ask. An unattributed and way too brief story in Publishers Weekly notes that “now nearly 10 months since its February approval hearing, the Google Book Settlement, the search giant’s other major book project, remains in legal limbo.”

Don’t freak — a decision hasn’t been rendered yet. But while we all sit around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and whistle in the dark while bracing for the inevitable (a decision giving Google everything they want, natch), the New York Law School Law Review which, apparently, is published in cahoots with the school’s Department of Redundancy Department — has published a special issue dedicated to understanding what’s involved in the case. PW calls it “perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of the legal issues at work.”

As PW summarizes it,

The seven essays in the issue were derived from the D Is for Digitize conference, organized by NYLS professor James Grimmelmann, who along with his students also created the Public Interest Book Search Initiative (PIBSI) in the spring of 2009 to give the public a voice in the digitization debate. Grimmelmann said that when he first organized D Is for Digitize, a conference on book scanning and the Google settlement for October, 2009 his main concern was whether a quick decision to approve or reject the settlement would make the event an afterthought. Turns out he needn’t have worried. In fact, with the settlement still up in the air, the issues covered in the New York Law School Review may turn out to be right on time.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.