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Six Reasons Google Books Failed (nybooks.com)
34 points by tomh 1775 days ago | past | web | 12 comments



OK, call me a hopeless capitalist but the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) idea he proposes will not work, only companies at the scale of Google will be able to tackle the overhead involved and be willing to walk the associated minefield.

The opinions on this issue that I have read generally range from the gung-ho "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this should be done" to the somebody else's problem philosophy "This is a job for government/congress/etc.". The judge's written opinion is the latter.

Darnton says "This provision made Google and its partners effective proprietors of works they had not created." This, I believe, is the major roadblock for many (old-fashioned) creators: you are making money off from poor writers. Advocates of this approach fail to acknowledge the immense costs of creating and maintaining such a system. And how much money do the authors of orphan works make now? Zero dollars.

The European efforts cited are AFAIK were reactionary to Google's scanning program. One should remember that not all such grandiose European programs work (e.g. what happened to Galileo GPS system?) because of the major fracturing, e.g. France's Gallica has ~1.7M books but they seem to be mostly old, out of copyright works.

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>"OK, call me a hopeless capitalist but the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) idea he proposes will not work, only companies at the scale of Google will be able to tackle the overhead involved and be willing to walk the associated minefield."

Or the Library of Congress - which is already the public library of the US.

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One problem with the LoC is that they don't really do a great job of making the collection readily available.

Sure they have http://www.loc.gov/library/libarch-digital.html

Which is "ok". But it's not really searchable, the interfaces are clunky, and I can't really just go find say...the Wizard of Oz series, or review historic maps of my state without going through dozens of clicks in an interface that's taking up about 1/6th of my screen real estate (and only downloadable as a jpg or an obscure geodata format called MrSid).

Ugh.

It's obvious that a ton of thought has gone into organizing the data, but not much into retrieval.

By comparison, it took me .16 seconds to find the Wizard of Oz books...and oh, if I care, a play in three acts, some song books, and other odds and ends.

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Well searching for "Wizard of Oz" on Google is about like searching for "hot teen sex" in that there is a lot of commercial incentive for Google to return results and returning something relevant is trivial given that Google's algorithms are tuned to return potentially monetizable results over a diversity of potentially informative results.

In other words, when was the last time something from the LOC appeared as a result of your Google search - such as the copyright data from Webvoyage? For example google("wonderful wizard of oz" copyright) and try to find this highly relevant information from the LOC [http://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search_Arg=wo...]

Aside on MrSid - if you are archiving a map for reference as a map rather than clip art it is ideal, and archiving maps for use as maps is what the LOC does. On the flip side, Google's goal is to sell advertising for companies like "worldsbestmaps.com" and so returning useless (from a map making perspective) results increases the value of Google ads to those companies.

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> And how much money do the authors of orphan works make now? Zero dollars.

Just because you know a way of making money from something, it doesn't mean you need to have that thing... For example, I know how to make money with developers that might be doing nothing important while working for Google or some other company. Should I sue them to have access to these developers?

Even if a book is making zero dollars, it doesn't mean that somebody else should be allowed to make money out of it.

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> Even if a book is making zero dollars, it doesn't mean that somebody else should be allowed to make money out of it.

They're note making money from the book, but from making the book available. In other words, they're actually doing work on it while the original author apparently just doesn't care any more.

If the author treats their own work like garbage and abandons it, I see no reason why they should be able to complain when someone recycles it into something useful and makes a profit.

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Abandoning a book doesn't mean it is treated as garbage. You may have made the conscious decision of not pursuing the marketing of a book for any number of reasons. That is just part of your rights as an author.

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> Abandoning a book doesn't mean it is treated as garbage.

Can you name any other object that one might abandon without treating it as garbage? An abandoned house may be claimed by squatters. Abandoned goods are recycled or trashed. Abandoned cars are sold or junked.

Why should books be different? Why should we not conclude that they have abandoned their rights? Why should we respect it when, after someone does work to turn their words into something valuable, they show up to assert rights?

I honestly don't see how this is different from someone wanting a cut of the money made from recycling garbage they had no intention of recycling. If it was art, if they truly loved it, they would never be so crass as to abandon it until there was money to be had. If their art was like their children, orphan works would be just that. Their author abandoned them on a street corner somewhere in a bad part of town and didn't care one bit about them until they heard they were a success, after which time they returned to beg money off them.

On the other hand, I suppose that the alternative, that is having their works die of obscurity, is a fitting punishment for authors like that. It's their work I feel sorry for.

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Copyright holders should be obliged to register their works after 10 years and every 10 years thereafter or so. The list of the registrations should be publicly accessible on the internet. If they can't be bothered to do it, the works should slip into the public domain.

And I speak as someone who makes his living from copyrighted works.

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James Grimmelmann's got an excellent analysis of the Google Books opinion at http://laboratorium.net/archive/2011/03/22/inside_judge_chin...

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This article should have been named 'Six Reasons Why Google Books Does Not Satisfy My Needs'. I beleive Books are a constant source of revenue for Google, and let's be honest, that is the only reason for corporations to exist.

Oh, btw Goole Books snippets are getting injected into my search results more and more often, so it looks like the idea of searching through the books isn't dead at all.

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The way for Google to solve this issue is to just do like any other company out there and sign agreements with authors and publishers. They will never get the "orphan" works, but who cares? There are many more books that "will" be published then what "has been" published.

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