Category Archives: google

The Evolution of Censorship

Annie Coreno -- October 1st, 2013
Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Last week librarians, educators, publishers, booksellers, and bookworms alike joined together to celebrate Banned Books Week. The celebration took on many forms: Twitter parties, YouTube read-out-louds, Google hangouts and more. The most important way to commemorate the seven-day event happens to be the simplest: read a banned book.

As someone who works in publishing, I always look forward to Banned Books Week—maybe because the best books tend to be the most frequently banned. Yet indulging myself in The Catcher in the Rye for the fourth or fifth time seems hardly commendable. I understand, of course, that it’s important to promote these titles for younger generations and doing so really does make a difference, as we saw in North Carolina when the Randolph County school board overturned the ban on Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man.

But as an adult with a computer and a bank account, not only have I read The Invisible Man but if I felt so inclined I could literally download it right here at my desk and start reading now. The same goes for Captain Underpants; it’s not exactly a revelatory activity.

After all, digital media has thrown censorship for a loop. On the one hand, the internet makes it easier for us to circumvent traditional barriers—if a two-year old can purchase a car on Ebay, then they probably can buy Lady Chatterly’s Lover online too. And it is not all that often you hear about religious leaders burning Kindles at the stake. On the other hand, the ways in which we encounter digital media are shifting, allowing new, more subtle forms of censorship. Rather than individuals or institutions serving as gatekeepers of information, algorithms filter content to fit our personal interests. These filters help sift the otherwise overwhelming universe of content and information by catering to our own interests, feeding us information likely to reflect our own world views. These filters work through our newsfeeds, our Google searches—the suggested reading we encounter regularly. Eli Pariser calls this phenomena the “filter bubble”—a term he uses to describe “your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online. What’s in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But you don’t decide what gets in — and more importantly, you don’t see what gets edited out.”

Banned Books Week is intended to celebrate the freedom of speech and our right to pursue ideas that are different than our own–even if they are unorthodox or unpopular. It’s an opportunity to read outside the comfort zone, to encounter new or different ideas which in turn will define own our opinions, to enable us to think critically about the world around us.

So as tempting as it is for me to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved just because it appeared on 2012′s list of most frequently banned books, basking in the rich language is not exactly in the spirit of the week. I need to read something I have avoided, something I have cast as outside my own interests/views or dismissed on account of the author—even if I don’t enjoy it.

HathiTrust: A Landmark Copyright Ruling

James Grimmelmann -- October 13th, 2012

The Authors Guild’s lawsuit against Google over book scanning is grinding on into its eighth year. After a settlement, an amended settlement, a rejection of the settlement, and a protracted procedural fight over certifying the case as a class action, it has made almost no substantive progress in front of Judge Chin.  Meanwhile, the Authors Guild’s lawsuit against Google’s HathiTrust library partners has produced a definitive ruling from Judge Baer in little more than a year. What started as a sideshow has become the main event.

And what an event it is! The mainstream media were all over last week’s ho-hum settlement between Google and the AAP but have mostly kept quiet about yesterday’s ruling.  In contrast, the Twitterverse exploded with news of the HathiTrust opinion and hasn’t quieted down yet. The Twitterers have it right: this decision is a big deal.  There are so many winners from the decision, it’s hard to count them all: Continue reading

AAP and Google: Please take it outside

Peter Brantley -- October 10th, 2012

reading politics by visual.dichotomyIn publishing, increasingly the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but as in the game of Clue, one needs to keep a scorecard handy to figure out who is the friend, and who the killer, in the Library versus the Conservatory.

One of the thinly disguised fault lines in the Google Book Search settlement was the latent tension between the authors, represented by the Authors Guild, and the publishers. The thorny issue of which party has prevailing digital rights to older backlist titles published at a time when contracts either neglected to mention, or weakly addressed, the future revenue possibilities of ebooks has consistently failed to be brought to ground. The conflict has spawned some of the most incestuous conflicts in publishing in recent years, either between traditional publishing groups and new publishing companies, e.g., Random House v. Rosetta Books, or between authors’ agents and publishers, e.g. Wylie v. Random House. In the Google Book Search settlement, arbitrating a distribution of revenues between authors and publishers from the books was such a cornerstone that it earned a pole position as the first appendix.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the primary authors groups – the National Writers Union (NWU), the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) – have united with the Authors Guild to decry the recently announced settlement between publishers and Google, which effectively ends the McGraw-Hill et al. lawsuit against the Google Books Library project. There is a touch of dark humor lurking, as the three groups making this announcement – the NWU, ASJA, and the SWFA – were vociferously in conflict with the Authors Guild through their participation in the Open Book Alliance while the Authors Guild was a party to the settlement proposals. Now that the settlement has been dashed, they are free again to common cause against the publishers. Continue reading

AAP: Call Me Maybe

Peter Brantley -- October 5th, 2012

Almost seven years ago to the day that the five of the largest publishers in the world filed a suit in a U.S. district court against Google, the AAP and Google announced that the parties have agreed to settle their litigation. Although publishing announcements seem tethered to the penumbra of the Frankfurt Book Fair, this is not “stop the presses” material: the publishers have been negotiating with Google for some time, even while the Authors Guild determinedly presses their class action engagement. But what is surprising, perhaps, is that so little has been apparently achieved by the publishers through these long years of uncertainty.

Publishers are left to opt-out of Google’s library-obtained dataset, and can now participate in commercializing older titles that Google has never ceased digitizing both in the U.S. and abroad, even if the rate of library digitization may be slowing. Acceptance of an underwhelming result which leaves nothing changed on the ground, as legal scholar James Grimmelmann of New York Law School notes, marks a pivot from 2007 when the suit was launched with a fulsome and righteous salvo: “Publishers bring this action to prevent the continuing, irreparable, and imminent harm that Publishers are suffering, will continue to suffer, and expect to suffer due to Google’s willful infringement, to further its own commercial purposes, of the exclusive rights of copyright that Publishers enjoy in various books …”.

Well, so much for that. Continue reading

Gnashing of Teeth: Publishers vs Readers

Peter Brantley -- March 11th, 2012

Seldom has news of litigation against publishers demonstrated such differences in opinions. But as the Department of Justice signals that it may file suit in a case alleging that the largest U.S. publishers and Apple combined to set high prices for books, the shrill cries from publishers suggesting that “the end of retail competition for books is nigh” remain largely deaf to the myriad benefits for customers. If agency pricing is struck down, readers may once again see reasonable book prices from online retailers that years ago acknowledged that digital music and videos have a very different value than their traditional analogues. Continue reading

The PW Morning Report: Friday, May 27, 2011

Calvin Reid -- May 27th, 2011

Today’s links! And please check out our new Facebook Page.

Teen YA Lit Monster Mashup. It’s all about mixing chills, thrills, adventure, and romance at BEA’s YA Buzz Panel.

Politics and Superheroes. What’s Superman’s position on the death penalty?

Robot Librarians! Robots take over the University of Chicago’s new $81 million Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, sort of.

Book City USA. Amazon Ranks the most literate cities in the U.S.

King Kindle. Despite Agency Model, the Kindle leads the pack in titles, readers and sales, while the iBookstore brings up the rear.

Google and the Future of Everything. Google Talks at BEA; people listen.

The PW Morning Report: Friday, May 13, 2011

Craig Morgan Teicher -- May 13th, 2011

Friday the 13th!

Curious George in Danger: The Curious George and Friends book and toy store in Harvard Square is in danger of closing unless the owner can raise money to save it. From Wicked Local Cambridge.

Florida Bookstores Closing: A look at how changing reading habits have caused Florida bookstores to shut down. From the Sun Sentinel.

The Future of Book Reviews: Top critics debate whether critics or Amazon reviewers are tomorrow’s literary taste makers. From the Daily Beast.

Figment Funded: Figment, the teen writing site founded by two New Yorker vets, got a big new source of funding. From Paid Content.

Houghton Hits Libraries: A big cache of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt e-books is now available to libraries via OverDrive. From eBookNewser.

Amazon Tablet: More on rumors of an Amazon tablet. From Pocket Lint.

Authors @ Google: Google’s HQ is becoming an important stop for touring authors. From the NYT.

The PW Morning Report: Thursday, May 12, 2011

Craig Morgan Teicher -- May 12th, 2011

Today’s links!

Google Books Heads North: The Digital Reader reports that Google Books is in the process of opening in Canada.

Coal Curriculum: Three advocacy groups are asking Scholastic to stop distributing curriculum materials developed for the American Coal Foundation, which paid Scholastic to develop them. From the NYT.

Book Future UK: Paid Content UK looks at the World E-Reading Congress in London, where publishers are trying to answer the question “what is a book?”

Bertelsmann Up: The Random House parent reported its Q1 results. From the Bookseller.

Chromebook: The big tech news this week comes from Google’s developer conference, where the company has unveiled the first laptops to run its Chrome operating system. From Engadget.

iFlow Follow Up: More on the demise of the iFlow e-reader app, which PWxyz reported on yesterday. From CNET.

Can Google Be Trusted with Our Books?

Craig Morgan Teicher -- April 27th, 2011

Simon Barron at the Guardian made a disturbing observation about Google’s business practices this week, noting that Google recently announced it would be deleting all the content uploaded to its Google Video service by users (though after a public outcry, the company said it would find new homes for as much content as possible) in order to refocus its efforts on its core business of search.  Barron feels this has bad implications for Google Books, which also comprises tons of content entrusted to Google’s care, and he worries Google could one day decide to reprioritize, jeopardizing all those book scans.

Here’s more from the article:

As a private sector company, the core aim of Google is to make money. The Google Videos situation shows that in order to lower expenditure and adjust its priorities, Google was willing to delete content entrusted to it by users. Libraries have trusted Google with millions of documents: many of the books scanned by Google are not digitised or OCR-processed anywhere else and, with budgets for university libraries shrinking year after year, may not be digitised again any time in the near future. Google acted admirably by listening to users and working to save the videos but entrusting such vast cultural archives to a body that has no explicit responsibilities to protection, archiving and public cultural welfare is inherently dangerous: as the situation made clear, private sector bodies have the ability to destroy archives at a whim.

Certainly we can’t trust Google’s promise not to “be evil,” but it would seem that the company believes in the Books project (it was one of Google’s founders’ first hopes and plans for the company), but what do you think?  Are our book in jeopardy?  Or is Google a safe library?

The PW Morning Report: Thursday, March 24, 2011

Craig Morgan Teicher -- March 24th, 2011

Today’s links!

Borders Trouble: The city of Pico Rivera, CA has been subsidizing the rent for a Borders store.  Now it’s closing down, but the city is still stuck with the rent. From the Whittier Daily News.

Walk And Talk With the Animals: Adam Hines’ remarkable debut graphic novel, Duncan The Wonder Dog–which details a world of thinking and acting animals–already a PW Best Book and recently nominated for an L.A Times Book Prize, has now been awarded the first annual Lynd Ward Prize for graphic fiction from the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

Short Fiction Vs. Long Fiction: The Guardian contemplates the relationship of the short story to the novel.

Best Translated Books: The finalists for this new-ish award have been announced. From the Millions.

Caring for Books: The co-owner of the Strand tells the WSJ how she cares for her home library.

Google’s Options: The NYT considers what Google and publishers might do now that the settlement has been rejected.

Another Digital Library Idea: A NYT op-ed contributor advocates for a free public digital library.