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.