Rise and Shine

What The Google Books Judgment Means For Authors

google-booksOn November 14, 2013, Circuit Judge Denny Chin ended a long battle over a copyright dispute between Google the search engine and The Authors Guild by siding with Google. The Guild and some of its members sued Google in a class action lawsuit late in 2005 in response to Google scanning their books for its Google Books and online library projects. Judge Chin deemed Google’s book scanning project as fair use with public benefits. You can read his decision here.

This decision will have long-term benefits for authors, especially for authors of print books.

The first benefit is the opportunity to appear in search results for content that is available ONLY in print. If a reader conducts a Google search using keywords associated with content to be found in a print book and Google has scanned that print book, then that book may appear in the search results for that searcher’s query.

Previously, if you were the author of a print book, the only way you would appear in search results for your book was if a searcher searched for the title of your book, your author name, or a keyword closely associated with one of the two. In essence, Google Books changes the game for authors of print books. Instead of seeing Google Books as a threat, authors should see it as an opportunity.

The Benefits Of Google Books To Print And Digital Book Authors


Google Books has the potential to bring authors of print books new readers by the following methods:

  • Links to libraries that carry the print book
  • Links to online bookstores that carry the print book, which could lead to new sales and new royalties of the book for the author
  • Additional exposure for the author as academics, bloggers, students, and others conduct research on topics and cite books for their papers, blogs, and other online and offline material
  • Motivation to seek inclusion in specific libraries that Google has partnered with for its book scanning project
  • Increased prestige as an author fortunate enough to be included in the Google Books project (this minority club will grow over time as Google scans more books)
  • The ability to keep a book in print longer due to its inclusion in Google Books
  • Potential increases in the number of reviews and citations a book has by virtue of its visibility in Google Books
  • A tactical opportunity for authors of digital books to print a limited run of print books and offer them to Google partner libraries for the sole purpose of encouraging Google to scan them and therefore reap the benefits that print book authors have
  • The ability to promote one’s digital books through Google Play that may be associated with like titles in print

If you are an author of print books or digital books and you are looking for new readers, there is no guarantee that Google Books will help you expand your readership, but there is no reason to be upset about your inclusion in Google Books either. See it as an opportunity to increase your audience and your exposure as an author. See it as a privilege, not a curse.

Allen Taylor
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