Exact Editions Blog

For Librarians & Publishers


Google as an aggregator of Book Services

A friend asked me the other day whether we were concerned that Google may simply come to dominate the digital book publishing space. Well in one way there clearly is a concern. If Google were to become a monopolist in the digital books/subscription services area, many companies would find it hard to compete.

Suppose that Google were to start selling access to digital book collections would that be a concern? These thoughts were in part stimulated by the announcement of a Google API for viewing Google Books (see our comment here). But they were further encouraged by our own announcement, today, of a platform from which publishers can licence and sell access to their own books.

Should we be worried if Google were to make a similar announcement (they may have such a development well in hand, as has been foreshadowed by well-informed observers, eg Personanondata)? The short answer is “No, this is not a concern”, Google very probably will do this and when it does the position of competitor/complementor companies and technologies will be clearer.

At some stage Google should offer or enable a method through which titles deposited by publishers on the GBS platform can be licensed. But how Google will do this (whether they will be ‘trading for their own account’ or merely facilitating the creation of digital markets — eBay-style) is a pretty good question. My own guess is that Google has enough on its plate trying to develop and energize its advertising platforms to spend too much time figuring out methods of selling access to content. But when they do start, we will all be in attendance.


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  1. I posted a similar thought yesterday. It seems to me with the adoption of the API by intermediaries like ExLibris that we are only inches away from the implementation of a management tool that enables publishers to manage the access to their content on a subscription/loan. Publishers would allow all their titles to be made available via Book Search and libraries would then be given access based on the requirements set down by each publisher. Interesting and potentially dangerous for publishers. Curiously, it could be Microsoft that may have the better tool for managing publisher content from what I have seen

  2. This is a delicate area for us, because there are some things that Google could do that would be very difficult for EE to compete with. But since Google Books Search is (mostly) making the right technical decisions one has to encourage publishers to use their platform. We do that (and we sincerely mean it). If Google were to offer a ‘free’ authentication service that would be very hard to compete with. But it would be hard to see them doing that, since a completely free and reasonably customer/publisher responsive authentication service, certainly can not be free in the long run. Authentication and subscription management does cost time and money. More generally, it is hard to see Google being really good at the quality and specificity that many diverse publishers will rightly be aiming at. So I say “Go Google Book Search, Go, Go” (and it would be good for Google if they could find a way of backing out of their copyright snafu. That really irritates a lot of book publishers.)

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