Wednesday, October 19, 2005
We've been asked recently why we're so determined to pursue Google Print, even though it has drawn industry opposition in the form of two lawsuits, the most recent coming today from several members of the American Association of Publishers. The answer is that this program, which will make millions of books easier for everyone in the world to find, is crucial to our company's mission. We're dedicated to helping the world find information, and there's too much information in books that cannot yet be found online. We think you should be able to search through every word of every book ever written, and come away with a list of relevant books to buy or find at your local library. We aim to make that happen, but to do so we'll need to build and maintain an index containing all this information.
It's no surprise that this idea makes some publishers nervous, even though they can easily remove their books from the program at any time. The history of technology is replete with advances that first met wide opposition, later found wide acceptance, and finally were widely regarded as having been inevitable all along. In 1982, for instance, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America famously told a Congressional panel that "the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone." But Sony, makers of the original Betamax, stood its ground, the Supreme Court ruled that copying a TV show to watch it later was legal, and today videotapes and DVDs produce the lion's share of the film industry's revenue.
We expect Google Print will follow a similar storyline. We believe that our product is legal (see Eric Schmidt's recent op-ed), that the courts will vindicate this position, and that the industry will come to embrace Google Print's considerable benefits. Even today, despite its lawsuit, the AAP itself recognizes this potential. The Google Print Library Program, AAP president Pat Schroeder said this morning, "could help many authors get more exposure and maybe even sell more books.” We look forward to the day that the program's opponents marvel at the fact that they actually tried to stop an innovation that, by making books as easy to find as web pages, brought their works to the attention of a vast new global audience.