Harvard drops out of Google Booksearch… because it’s not going to be free.

blue booksThe fat lady hasn’t yet sung for Google Booksearch. Just a few days after the announcement that the Big G had settled with the author and publisher associations to pay them a fair price for online access to digitised books, Harvard University is dropping out of the program:

“As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries,” Harvard’s university-library director, Robert C. Darnton, wrote in a letter to the library staff.

He noted that “the settlement provides no assurance that the prices charged for access will be reasonable, especially since the subscription services will have no real competitors [and] the scope of access to the digitized books is in various ways both limited and uncertain.”

As TechDirt points out, the settlement looks good at a first glance, and has probably mollified a lot of writers and publishers, but it actually gives Google a tighter hold on the content:

Rather than making the world’s information accessible and findable, this move is an attempt to lock up the world’s information in Google’s proprietary format, so that Google can charge people for it. It sets in place a forced business model that actually diminishes the potential usefulness and value of books, and sets a bad precedent for just about everyone else.

So it would seem that by clamouring for short-term advantage, the publishers and libraries may actually have lost the long game. We’ve not heard the last of this, I’ll wager. [image by Dawn Endico]