Nearly a decade after Google decided to improve literacy and bring the publishing world (kicking and screaming) into the digital age, the lawsuits preventing it from doing so have been cleared out of the way.
In the meantime, Amazon and the Kindle platform have become a dominant force in the publishing industry… and ePub is threatening to take even more leverage out of the hands of the very publishers who brought the legal challenges in 2004 to stop those greedy folks at Google from damaging their industry.
Frankly, it’s sad and ridiculous that traditional publishers were so hostile to digital publishing — an attitude that may be their undoing.
It reminds me of one of my favorite marketerisms: Pioneers get scalped, while settlers prosper.
In this case, Google got legally scalped, simply because they were the first to try something. Their goal was reasonably altruistic, to scan excerpts from every book know to man and post it online, with links to where users could purchase these books.
Somehow, that was viewed by the very weary publishing industry as a copyright infringement tactic. As they tied up the Google Book project in court, the “settlers” like Amazon, learned from Google’s missteps and found a clear path to dominating digital book sales.
As things stand now, the traditional publishing industry is probably wishing they’d worked with Google and embraced the technology that is now making them work overtime to scrape by and survive. In fact, according to New York Law School Prof., James Grimmelmann;
“The publicly described terms sound indistinguishable from the terms Google has offered to its print partners for years. If that’s all, it’s hard to understand why this deal took so long.”
Funny how time changes things…
Sure, this 10-year legal battle hurt Google; it missed out on an opportunity to get into the digital publishing revolution on the ground floor. BUT that’s nothing compared to what these publishers lost — a virtual choke hold on the entire publishing industry.