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Sony-Google Deal Adds 500k Public Domain Books to E-Reader

Sony is adding 500,000 public domain EPUB-based titles to its Reader catalog through a partnership with Google. Paul Biba at Teleread examines Sony’s rationale:

Sony’s apparent intent, meanwhile, beyond adding value to the Reader, will be to use public domain books in ePub to entice people to install its software and in time buy its reader devices.

In the exclusive TeleRead interview, Steve [Haber, President of Sony’s Digital Reading Division] emphasized that this program is part of Sony’s commitment to an open platform, as opposed to the closed platform of its major competitor (hint, hint, the name starts with an A). The ePub conversion is being done by Google itself, as noted; and Sony and Google are exploring ways to make copyrighted ePub material available.

Catalog expansion and mobile devices are propelling recent ebook/e-reader announcements. Google Book Search opened mobile access to its archive of public domain books in February, and Amazon recently made its Kindle titles available to iPhone and iPod Touch users through a free iPhone app.

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  • bowerbird

    how nice of google to give sony public-domain titles.

    thoughtful and generous of google, wouldn’t you say?

    what’s that you say? that public-domain titles _belong_
    to the _public_, and thus google is giving us something
    that already _belonged_ to us in the first place?

    why are you always such a spoilsport? be constructive!

    just be glad we now have a way to easily repurpose those
    half-million books to a form that is _truly_ “free and open”.

    which, um, no, does _not_ mean in “epub” format,
    because that’s a pain in the patooee to work with.

    however, we can automatically _convert_ epub into
    a format which is really-and-truly easy to work with,
    therefore satisfying the _spirit_ of an “open standard”,
    and not merely the technical _letter_ of the definition.

    and yes, it’s the height of ridiculous for google to
    scan those books and then turn the plain-text into
    .html and then turn that .html into .epub, only to
    have us take that .epub and turn it back into .html
    and then turn the .html back to a plain-text format.

    but this is the twisted bullsh*t the “open standard”
    idiots have bequeathed to us, so we’re stuck with it.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    let me tell you what’s _really_ troubling about this…

    it’s not that google is acting like it owns public-domain content.
    that’s quite easy to ignore, and google can’t do a thing about it.
    anyone can do anything they want with public-domain content,
    like mount it independently, sell it, heck, even sell it to amazon.
    so it won’t be long until all this stuff is available at amazon also.

    but…

    what this demonstrates is that google is perfectly willing to
    use what its got to try to affect the sway of the marketplace.

    this deal “with” sony is also a deal _against_ amazon and apple.

    like i said, with public-domain comment, that’s no big deal…

    however, the precedent being established here is dangerous.

    because google is also — with the infamous “settlement” —
    establishing control over in-copyright-but-out-of-print work.
    and it will be a lot more difficult for others to match that aspect.

    this constitutes a huge swath of content that is more timely
    and valuable than that extremely-old public-domain material
    (plus, contrary to most thinking, it’s far more than “orphans”),
    and we now see that google will use it to attack their rivals…

    -bowerbird