Yesterday he published a post arguing that publishers should embrace (rather than fight) Google Books:
When I meet with publishers I always ask them about the biggest problems they face in today’s market. One of the most popular answers is “discoverability.” Most publishers fret about getting lost in a sea of other books and promotional campaigns.
That’s why I’m scratching my head about all the negative publisher and author reaction to the recent federal appeals court ruling on Google Books. If you’re not familiar with Google Books, it’s an extension of the search engine enabling discovery and sampling of digitized books. Many of those books are still protected by copyright, hence the delicate nature of the case.
Publishers, wake up and realize that the largest search engine on the planet offers a powerful way for your content to be discovered and purchased. Rather than getting all litigious about this, why not embrace it and find a way to fully leverage it?
The simple truth is that as technology evolves, the notion of “fair use” is also evolving. I think this is a very good thing, and not just for Google. History is littered with marketplace incumbents who crashed and burned as they tried to protect yesterday’s model. Tomorrow’s publishing leaders will be the ones who take advantage of services like Google Books, not those trying to make it go away in a courtroom.
He's not the first to make this point about discovery; Eric Flint raised a similar issue as far back as December 2000, when he was touting free ebooks as a way to sell more books, and many authors (including Neil Gaiman) have said that they see piracy as helpful because it lets readers discover and try new authors without risk or expense.
And there are even publishers who see Google Books as a solution to the discovery problem, and are voluntarily participating in Google Books.
I know that Google Books is frequently described as a book scanning project, but there's more to it than that. There's also a lesser known second part to the project where authors and publishers can choose to upload their works so they can be indexed in Google's search engine.
If you've ever come across a digitally perfect book in Google Books, that was probably a book which was uploaded by the copyright holder who had figured out that the books you can't find are the books you can't buy.
And that, in a nutshell, is the value of Google Books. It makes otherwise obscure works discoverable, and it does so at no cost to the author. It's free advertising, and you can't get a better deal than that.
image by Johan Larsson