November 3, 2005 7:00 PM PST

Google book scanning still on hold

Google plans to resume its library book scanning "soon," a Google spokesman said Thursday.

The company had halted the scanning in August to allow copyright holders time to contact Google and opt out. At the time, the search giant said it would resume scanning on Nov. 1, but three days into the month it still had not, said spokesman Nate Tyler.

"We're getting to it. It's an operational thing," he said.

Tyler declined to be more specific about the timing, but did say that scanners will start with older parts of the participating library collections, which tend to include more public domain and out-of-print books than books still under copyright, he added.

The company is embroiled in lawsuits over its plans to scan, digitize and make searchable public domain and copyright-protected books from the university collections of Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and Michigan, and from the New York Public Library.

Earlier on Thursday, Google made available on its Web site for searching thousands of public domain books from the four participating libraries in the U.S.

Also on Thursday, Amazon.com said it would launch its own book digitization projects to allow publishers to charge for online access to books next year. In addition, Random House, the world's largest publisher of trade books, said it had come up with a business model for allowing people to pay to view its books on the Internet.

Surprisingly, typing in well-known quotations from several classic books, such as "A Tale of Two Cities," by Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," did not display the original books at the top of search results as would be expected.

The site for Henry James' "Daisy Miller" allows users to search within the book, turn the pages, get more information about the book and offers links to book sellers.

While the new digital books Google unleashed on the Internet were out of copyright and thus fair game, two lawsuits filed by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers allege Google is violating copyright by scanning entire books that are copyright protected, even if it only provides a snippet of what is inside when searched.

Google defends its practice, saying it falls within the "fair use" provision of the copyright law.

Google rival Yahoo and the Internet Archive are working on a competing book digitization project, which Microsoft's MSN joined last week. That effort avoids the sticky copyright debate by restricting the search capabilities to books that are in the public domain, unless the copyright holder gives permission.

Public domain books have been available online for years as a result of efforts such as Project Gutenberg.

 

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