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Google Inc. book search fuels debate

Nov. 30, 2005

by ANALIZ GONZALEZ, staff writer

Google may be to books what Napster was to music.

Earlier this month, Google Inc. went back to scanning books despite lawsuits over copyright infringements.

Google has made parts of some books and some books in their entirety available for anyone to read online. The available books were scanned in the libraries of the University of Michigan, the New York Public Library, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford University.

Lawsuits have been filed by Author's Guild and the Association of American Publishers.

"I think ... if they pursue the lawsuit ... I could see the court cases going all the way up to the Supreme Court," said Billie Peterson-Lugo, associate professor and head of library outreach services.

Peterson said some publishers argue they will lose sales due to the services offered by Google Book Search, but others are glad the services are available because the search can help people find the books they need and can lead to more purchases.

"If the text is available (on Google), someone can search for something fairly obscure and they will find it ... whereas before ... there'd be no way of knowing whether that particular aspect was being addressed in a book unless you read it from cover to cover," Peterson said.

According to the Google Book Search Web site, "The aim of Google Book Search is to help you discover books and learn where to buy or borrow them, not read them from start to finish. It's like going to a book store and browsing -- with a Google twist."

Google makes books available in three different forms. The snippet view, which allows viewers to read a few sentences about the book; sample pages view, which allows viewers to read some of the pages in a book; and full book view, which makes the entire book available.

Only "snippets" of books will be available unless publishers grant Google permission to show sample pages. Snippets are sentences that include the items in the search in context. Bibliographic information is also provided in these cases.

According to Google's Wen site, Google Book Search treats all books published after 1922 as protected by copyright, except for books to which no copyright was attached in the first instance, such as books authored by the U.S. Government.

Taylor sophomore Raquel Salinas said she plans to take advantage of the Google Book Search.

"It would save me money on books and stuff like that," Salinas said. "I'd much rather be able to look up a book I need and read it for free than have to pay $30 dollars for it at the book store."

She said she would also use the snippets and bibliographical information in case the whole book isn't available.

Yahoo! and MSN also provide a service similar to the Google Book Search, except these groups only make available books of authors who asked to be included.