UoL Library Blog

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Google Books & Libraries

Posted by gazjjohnson on 18 May, 2010

In the last couple of weeks Google Books has been something that’s been on the lips of myself and some of my colleagues. A confession, until last week I’d read a fair number of articles about it, but hadn’t actually pointed my browser towards it at all. No particular reason for not doing that, save for the face that I’d had no particular reason for doing that either. However, at first glance it is a very interesting site for the public and students alike that raise’s a few questions over how we, in the library, could/should be using it. And so like all good managers, I deputised one of my staff to find out more about it – and so my thanks to my Copyright Officer Tania Rowlett for the following notes.

US, UK & Downunder
It appears that Google books reached an agreement with the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild concerning the digitisation of their books, which essentially said the following in relation to books published in the US, UK, Canada and Australia:

  • In-copyright books could be previewed and purchased (unless the author/publisher ‘turned off’ the title) within the realms of fair use (a limited amount similar to our 5%/ chapter)
  • Out of copyright books will continue to be readable, downloadable and printable (which may be why it is more useful for Museum Studies/Archaeology/History documents)

HOWEVER, they also state that “Because this agreement resolves a United States lawsuit, it directly affects only those users who access Book Search in the U.S.; anywhere else, the Book Search experience won’t change. Going forward, we hope to work with international industry groups and individual rights holders to expand the benefits of this agreement to users around the world.”.

So, people accessing Google books from the US may be able to access more content than we [in the UK] can, but this should still only be within the above fair limits, which is supported by their statement: “whenever you can see more than a few snippets of an in-copyright book in Google Books, it’s because the author or publisher has joined our Partner Program and granted us permission to show you the Sample Pages View, which helps you learn enough about a book to know whether you want to buy it. This is something we do with a publisher’s explicit permission.

Overseas
In addition, Google books have not reached a settlement/agreement with other countries, and certainly France and Germany appear to be unhappy about the project, so books from other countries ‘may’ be available but may not remain so. Having said that, if an item is accessible, then it is likely to be so for the foreseeable future (I’ll keep everyone posted on developments), and might be a useful addition to the search process.

Information Librarian Support
What has been notable is when we look at some of the books on reading lists here at Leicester, certainly not all the books are available.  In addition even for those that are on Google Books there are sections and chapters that are missing.  Some of the books are even ones that we may well have access to in print or electronically by other sources too.  What it means for my team is something we will need to discuss in-house – should we for example start to check Google Books more as a resource for satisfying our DL and DS requests, or not?  There are a number of advantages certainly to the students (speed of resolution of requests for one) but how stable are the resources on there?  How frequently do they change?  And what steps are other higher education libraries taking towards embracing this swelling collection of accessible texts?

I might also add that there is also an information literacy component here, in that the students may need user and awareness training if they are to take to using Google Books as one of their regular resources.  Which again raises the question over the reliability of access.  It doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, and so once again we may need to adapt to this new information frontier.

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