The debate over the Google Library project to help scan all of the books in various university libraries has quieted down a bit lately, but John Battelle points to a speech from the president of the University of Michigan passionately defending the program to a bunch of book publishers. It’s good that the book publishers were willing to invite someone to speak to them who disagrees with their lawsuit against Google, though it’s unlikely to have much of a direct impact. Instead of focusing on the (many) ways that Google’s project could help publishers and authors, Mary Sue Coleman highlights the mission of expanding knowledge. Unfortunately, this is probably the least likely reason to convince book publishers that they’re making a mistake. It certainly sounds good to hear: “This project is about the social good of promoting and sharing knowledge. As a university, we have no other choice but to do this project,” but that isn’t likely to interest publishers who are focused more on making money. While both of these are mentioned in the speech, the two most important points that publishers need to understand is that (1) this is legal anyway and (2) embracing it allows them to expand their offerings in a number of important ways that can help them make more money.
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