This is a very long post for a simple and naive thought, but its also me tying some loose strings together.
Just a few notes before I get to my actual thought:
1. I only somewhat understand what the Google Book Settlement is all about. Reading the wikipedia entry tonight helped push out what I thought I knew, but this post isn’t supposed to represent that I know a lot about what is going on right now with books, ebooks, scanning and Google.
2. A couple of quotes from a Boise State Public Radio story on Google’s ebook business working with independent book sellers (via @jackbrewster). Len Vlahos, COO of the American Bookseller’s Association:
That store is rooted in teh community. Certainly that store curates content in a way that really no one else can. Independent bookstores are known for identifying new titles and great new reads and putting the right book in the hands of the right customer and that’s not in Google’s wheelhouse, not something they would claim to have expertise at either.
Tom Turvey, Google Strategic Partnerships:
Really goes back to our mission for Google Books, to allow anyone to explore the printed works of human kind. Started this project in 2004, with the mission of scanning all books in all languages. Its really in our DNA to make these books available through as wide an audience as possible. We think that’s important.
3. And, the ongoing debate about Overdrive, Harper Collins and especially the Ebook Reader Bills of Rights.
So, here’s the main line of thought: Between the long line of steps that a user needs to take before actually downloading anything to situations like what is happening with Kansas, Overdrive obviously needs some competition. They should be lauded to getting into a market like serving libraries, but there should be more than one option.
There are some more open alternatives, but they are very limited when compared to total number of titles and recent works.
Getting back to those Google Ebook Store quotes. “Certainly that store curates content in a way that really no one else can.” Really? I mean, I love Orca Books, and I’d suggest anyone buying from them, even online, but there is a significant difference between a bookstore (even a local, close to non-profit one) and a public library.
If the idea is to work with local organizations and offer ebook solutions, a better partner for Google would be public libraries. Just saying.
That said, I think the solution isn’t an Overdrive killing Google, but rather a tool to help libraries manage and distribute their own ebooks. What Overdrive sells publishers is the technological guarantee that their ebooks will be distributed to library patrons under enforceable rules. What Overdrive gives libraries is ebooks, under any circumstances, because publishers wouldn’t sell or license to libraries under any other circumstances.
What I think Google can do is negotiate a better deal, or any other sort of deal, with publishers. I also think they can build a better tool to help libraries manage ebook resources the libraries themselves create, purchase or license.