In Sunday’s Washington Post there was an article about Google’s effort to digitize all the books in the Stanford University Library…and their dream to digitize all the books in the world.

Here is the article “Search Me? Google Wants to Digitize Every Book. Publishers Say Read the Fine Print First” August 13, 2006
(you may have to register with The Washington Post to read it)

In a nutshell, Google will digitize Stanford’s collection and provide what they consider “fair use” of the material. They will provide the ability to search the text of the books, but will only show “snippets” of the work, what they feel fits the “fair use” stipulations of copyright law. I won’t go into the complicated details, but suffice to say that the Author’s Guild and several publishers have filed suit against Google.

I’m ambivalent.

As an author, it makes a frisson of trepidation crawl up my spine, like discovering someone stealing my book without paying for it. Google argues against this, but the gist of the lawsuits have to do with using material without renumeration for the publisher or author, who create the book in the first place.

As a researcher, however, my response is, “Wow!” Imagine all that information at my fingertips! Imagine me being able to enter “Castle Inn Brighton 1816” (a setting of my next Warner book, Desire In His Eyes, aka Blake’s story, now in the revision stage). It would take me hours in a library, days perhaps, to search out such information. Wouldn’t it be great if I could have it at my fingertips?

Then I think of out-of-print books, like The Regency Companion by Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L Hamlin. I am lucky enough to have obtained a copy of this regency research classic years ago by bidding $40 on ebay on a Thanksgiving evening, but now lists this book as going for a low of $224.50 and a high of $595.00. Obviously this puts the book out of reach for 99.9% of regency writers and readers, but wouldn’t it be great if everyone had access to its information?

Well, what would be great is if Laudermilk and Hamlin would just authorize a re-release of the book. I’d happily buy another copy! If it were a searchable e-book copy, like Dee Hendrickson’s Regency Reference Book, I’d like it even better.

I empathize with the fact that Laudermilk and Hamlin didn’t get one penny of the money I spent on their book, and would not get a penny of that $595, if anyone chose to spend such an amount. If I think of this being multiplied a brazillion amount of times for every author—-shudder! There goes that frisson again.

What do you, dear readers and friends, think of Google’s plan? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?