By Ellen Duffer┬á – www.forbes.com
The decade-long Authors Guild v. Google case came to a close on October 16, with the Second Circuit court siding with Google. Authors, filing with The Authors Guild, Inc. to contest GoogleÔÇÖs book-scanning project (recently the subject of a much-circulated New Yorker article, ÔÇ£What Ever Happened to Google Books?ÔÇØ), had an obvious stake in the case: many hoped that a decision in favor of the Guild would force Google to remove book scans, thus, assumedly, helping authorsÔÇÖ book sales increase.
If you search for a title or a subject in Google Books, what youÔÇÖre given isnÔÇÖt the full-text of a book. Instead, Google searches the contents of the thirty million books itÔÇÖs digitized since 2002 and presents you with a list of book snippets and book titles that include your search terms. This is immensely helpful to researchers and, the argument in favor of Google Books goes, potentially beneficial to publishersÔÇôand, by default, to authors.
The project has a messy historyÔÇôfrom the feverish scanning of any books Google could get its hands on, to the companyÔÇÖs quick decision to allow publishers to opt-out of scanning entirely or request that only snippetsÔÇôand not full-textsÔÇôof books be available on a title-by-title basis when Authors Guild filed in 2005.┬á Google Books in its current iteration, however, is good for publishers.
When the company began working closely with publishers in 2009 to include buy links in search results, Google Books became a marketing tool.
Publishers have been notably late to the direct-to-consumer game (and it is not a universal opinion within the industry that direct-to-consumer sales are a good idea). ThereÔÇÖs an ongoing debate about where to sell books, how to price them and how to market them. Unsurprisingly, then, readers arenÔÇÖt often familiar with publishers as brands, and donÔÇÖt think to go to publishersÔÇÖ websites to discover new titles. Instead, they turn to Amazon.
Google Books is a solid alternative to AmazonÔÇÖs discoverability and sales platform, and one that readers will find organically. Although Amazon is included in the list of buy-links on Google Books search results, and although Amazon is listed secondÔÇôbelow ÔÇ£The Publisher,ÔÇØ which links to the titleÔÇÖs publisherÔÇÖs direct-to-consumer site, if availableÔÇôthis feature gives publishers a boost they otherwise would not have. When a reader Googles a book theyÔÇÖd like to read, the Google Books result appears as a sidebar next to the normal list of search resultsÔÇôthat likely has the Amazon result at the very top.
Searching ÔÇ£hard choices hillary clinton,ÔÇØ for example, produces, in order, results for: Amazon; Wikipedia; HillaryClintonMemoir.com, a Simon and Schuster website, which links to Amazon on its homepage; and then Books.SimonandSchuster.com, where the reader can buy the book directly from the publisher. It also calls up the Google Books sidebar, offering readers a ÔÇ£Preview BookÔÇØ button, which takes them directly to the Google Books page where Simon and SchusterÔÇÖs buy link is displayed first.
Any revenues that come publishersÔÇÖ way because of these buy links are likely, like all book revenues, to be nominal. But in an industry dominated so tremendously by one playerÔÇôa player who is frequently attacked for not having publishersÔÇÖ best interests in mindÔÇôany variation is a good thing.