Based on my personal experience working with small and medium sized publishers, it will be prove very difficult for anyone reaching out to the 'Orphan' group to encourage them to participate in the Google Book Settlement process.
When I joined Bowker in 1999, we were still using the post office to mail our publisher check lists to over 55,000 small and independent publishers each year. These check-lists represented our primary communication with this group of publishers most of whom published less than 10 titles each (many only one). These publishers had one chance per year to correct any errors or change any prices to make sure that year’s edition of Books In Print had the most accurate information. This should have been sufficient motivation then for any publisher who understood that Ingram, Barnes & Noble, Borders and a raft of independent booksellers relied on BIP for their title research and buying. When we reviewed this process and analyzed the results that year – forms returned and changes made – the data showed us that less than 20% of this group bothered to return the document and of these less than 50% made any kind of change. Even with a degree of financial motivation, over 40,000 small and independent publishers couldn’t be bothered.
Certainly, you could argue this had to as much to do with the paper based process as it did their disinterest; however, several years later when we had fully implemented BowkerLink the small press group of publishers remained largely anonymous. By 2005, the publisher data base had grown from 65,000 in 1999 to approximately 85,000 and we counted approximately 45,000 publishers registered on BowkerLink. BowkerLink includes both US and international publishers and registrations were naturally skewed to active and newer publishers. In the transition, we aggressively mailed to every publisher encouraging them to register and manage their title listing online. We also proactively cleaned the publisher address file using the National Change of Address (NCoA) file which we had not been using prior to 1999. I think we eventually stopped mailing paper checklists in 2004. Still, the number of small and independent publishers who chose to participate only increased marginally even as Bowker made the title management process more inclusive.
Most of the Books In Print database reflects titles published after 1970 and most observers of the Google settlement expect that the large proportion of Orphan titles are going to be found in the pre-1970 grouping. If it has been challenging to engage the small and independent publishers post 1970 then the earlier group will be significantly harder. Whether the publicity around the Google Book Settlement proves more of a motivator than the options the post 1970 group often disdained such as listing their title(s) in bibliographic databases, asserting their ownership via the copyright office and/or selling their title on Amazon.com remains to be seen. I have my doubts. If the expectation of retail glory (however misguided) at Amazon.com hasn’t galvanized anyone with an ‘Orphan’ copyright then Google probably wont either.
I hope the lack of interest changes if real money is dispensed. The Authors Guild has stated that when you are collecting money for people and looking to disperse it recipients have a tendency to show up at your door. Around 2001, the AG started collecting the money due from rights and permissions for authors. (Previously this had been handled by CCC). Not only did they become proficient at collections but their membership and disbursements increased. All good things, but their membership is still less than 10,000. Not only do they not have a lot of undistributed revenue but they also haven’t seen a mammoth rise in members.