Friday, July 10, 2009

Should I opt out?

I have been considering of late whether to remove my book from the Google Books programme, which I submitted it to several years ago. I originally joined it on the recommendation of friends who claimed that it has enhanced their online presence and in turn, led to more sales, but am yet to be convinced. If anything it may with books like mine, have the opposite effect. It is difficult to know. On the other hand, there was that review from the Self Publishing Magazine that described my work "as ideal for students of philosophy and the social sciences". There is also the small matter of my friend Nadine Laman who lives in Arizona and tells me that several students at the University of Arizona, which her son attends, are raving about my book. The number of US copies being sold does seem to have increased this year. Could this then be a way for me to reach the universities and lead to more sales? Maybe I ought to stay with the programme after all, and register for the new Partner programme that is being set up. Decisions, decisions.

I contacted Google anyway to find out how to get my book removed and had the somewhat reassuring reply:

"Before processing your removal request, I wanted to first clarify that the settlement and the Partner Programme are separate. You can choose now to put your books in the Partner Programme; this would not preclude you from having the Registry represent your books in the future.

The terms of the settlement agreement will not be in effect until the Court has fully approved the settlement.To learn more about the Google Book Search settlement agreement, please go to

Because the settlement is awaiting Court approval, we're limited in our ability to discuss it with you. However, you are encouraged to contact the Settlement Administrator Class Counsel, whose contact information is on the settlement website, for further assistance. I also wanted to assure you that Google respects the rights of owners and the tremendous creative effort of authors, and that in every case, Google's presentation of the works to the public will keep authors and publishers in mind and will be well within the bounds of copyright law.

The Google Books Partner Programme is a free marketing programme intended to help authors and publishers increase their books' online presence. In the future, should a retail component be added to the Partner Programme, we will be splitting the revenue with the copyright holders, with a higher proportion going to the copyright holders. If, after reviewing this information, you'd still like to have your book removed from the Google Books Partner Programme, please let me know."

It seems then that Google Books (the search online facility) and the Partner Programme are in fact separate things - and being part of one does not necessarily mean that you have to be part of the other. Those who have submitted their work to Google Books as I did, can opt out of the of the Partnership Programme. Doing this does not stop them from joining it at a later date.

Mind you, I had to laugh at the idea of them respecting the the rights of authors and in their own words "their tremendous creative effort". If that were really the case, then why are they riding roughshod over the authors of out of print and copyright books without their permission. If they cannot be traced then tough, this does not give them license to scan their work without permission. As for the idea that the authors will benefit more than Google, how on earth can this happen when the copyright holders cannot be traced - surely this means that all the Revenue will go to Google?! They will be the ones to the ones to benefit from someone else's "tremendous creative effort" and not the one who actually put the work in. When they say that a retail operation will be run within the bounds of copyright law, this will of course mean American law, which is not the same as European law, how can it be?

I suppose the bottom line is whether this is likely to increase my sales and raise my profile, and that is all I should really be concerned with, and try and put my emotions to one side. Yes it is wrong to scan out of print books, but I joined Google Books willingly, and only question I need to ask myself is will this help to open up new avenues for my work?

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