The November 3, 2008 Library Hotline has a lead article on a landmark settlement between Google and the Authors Guild (AG) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), two organizations that had filed suit against it over the Google Book Search Project. The details are very sketchy, but "Google has announced that the parties have agreed to expand Google Book Search into what will be the web's largest online commercial book venture. Hotline says "the deal could mean significantly increased access to book content online," but not everyone is happy. Harvard University, for example, has noted that it will not participate with Google in the scanning of in-copyright works, and will continue with its policy of only allowing Google to scan books whose copyright has expired.
On it's web site, Google explains the settlement in terms of what will change and what won't. Access to books that are out of copyright won't change much at all. Access to books that are in copyright but out-of-print, or in copyright and in print, will change from the current "snippet" view to more of what is currently the preview view , where you're allowed to view up to 20 full pages of text, then decide whether you'd like to purchase "full online access" to millions of books. Publishers and authors will have their royalties managed through the creation of a "Book Rights Registry."
You can't, apparently, actually download the titles you purchase - at least not yet - but simply keep then on your "electronic bookshelf" within your Book Search account.
Libraries will be able to "purchase institutional subscriptions" allowing their customers access to the full text of the books on the library's "electronic bookshelf," but there's no information about being able to download or "check out" these ebooks. Public and academic libraries will also be able to offer terminals where users can access the out-of-print books for free. However, an article at Xconomy.com makes the point that, while libraries are supposed to be offered a free, view-only license to Google's digital collections, that the agreement actually "restricts each public library to exactly one Google terminal."
Time will tell whether the proposed model will generate enough money for authors & publishers, or enough interest from the reading & book-buying public. I'm not hopeful, because while I enjoy downloading ebooks to read, maintaining an "electronic bookshelf" on Google's servers as a virtual adjunct to my own print library isn't attractive to me at all.
What do you think?