Sunday, October 18, 2009

Media Week 42: GBS Frankfurt Panel, Libreka, FTC

In the waning Friday of the Frankfurt bookfair there was a contentious, apparently somewhat 'anti-google' discussion of the Google Book Settlement as reported by Richard Nash on the fair's blog:

The impact of the Google Book Settlement, in whatever form it might eventually take, promised to be one of the most controversial panels at this year’s Fair and the participants, especially Prof. Roland Reuss, author of the Heidelberg Appeal, a vehement critique of the Google scanning project, did not disappoint. He denounced as “garbage of hysterical propaganda” the claims by Google that they were enhancing access, maintain that “if you want to finance production, you have to shelter the ones who produce,” not those that consume, and that moreover any student who is completely dependent on the Internet for “must be stupid.”
Reuss was largely unmoved. “It has always been possible for scholars to get the information,” he said, “since the 5th century.” He believes that the focus on access is inappropriate, “fetishistic,” and that the true issue with scholarship is to produce, not to access.

Reuss' comments seemed to be as much against the internet as against the issue of copyright, nevertheless there appeared to be some in the audience who applauded his commentary. The panel discussion sits neatly as a bookend to Chancellor Merkel's per-Frankfurt oration in the perils of the Google Book Settlement and the institution of German copyright. Curiously not a subject I would have expected a head of state to draw attention to but then perhaps the subject was thematic with respect to the opening of the fair.

Richard noted the German Bookseller and Publisher supported site Libreka which was launched three (possibly four) years ago (PND) to great fan fair and has managed to amass 120,000 books available for full-text search. Libreka was created to provide a platform for German published full-text content and continues to announce content and publisher deals. Through the significant discussion of Merkel's comments - where they valid, where they informed for example, no one mentioned Libreka which speaks to its' irrelevance and lack of traction. A review of Libreka's web traffic report seems to support the last point. The Börsenverein is both the operator of the Frankfurt bookfair and the 'publisher' of Libreka and perhaps this relationship suggests a more practical motivation for Merkel's copyright comments.

The Interactive Ad Bureau has asked the FTC to rescind their recent statement on blogger disclosure statements saying (Reuters),
"What concerns us the most in these revisions is that the Internet, the cheapest, most widely accessible communications medium ever invented, would have less freedom than other media," said Mr. Rothenberg, "These revisions are punitive to the online world and unfairly distinguish between the same speech, based on the medium in which it is delivered. The practices have long been afforded strong First Amendment protections in traditional media outlets, but the Commission is saying that the same speech deserves fewer Constitutional protections online. I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide the invaluable content and services that have so transformed people`s lives."
Google launched or re-launched their on-line bookstore that will initially contain 500,000 titles. Some commentators have gone so far as to suggest that - absurdly - is smoke. (Guardian):

Editions is set to launch in the first half of 2010, potentially giving readers in America and Europe access to around half a million titles including best-sellers and back catalogue books. Crucially, the store will be compatible with a number of devices - including mobile phones, computers and ebook readers - that could allow it to market services to millions of people worldwide.

Under Google's plans, readers will be able to download texts straight from Google Books website, or from the websites of book retailers or directly from publishers who choose to work with the Silicon Valley company. Executives said they are targeting partnerships with major retailers such as WH Smith and Blackwell - many of which already have existing partnerships with the site.

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