Publishing News: Google and publishers settle lengthy legal battle

Google settles with publishers, publishers are getting back to actual business, news gets mobile, and Google wants to charge for content.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

Publishers and Google reach an agreement to disagree

Seven years of litigation came to a close this week as Google reached a settlement agreement with McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster. Hayley Tsukayama at the Washington Post reports:

“Under the settlement, the publishers … will be able to choose whether or not to make work that Google has already scanned available for the project. If they choose to make the material available, Google will provide a digital copy for the publisher’s personal use. If they choose not to participate, Google will remove the material. Going forward, publishers can negotiate directly with Google to allow additional material to be included in the database.”

Claire Cain Miller at the New York Times notes that all questions regarding Google’s digitization project are not answered: Google has yet to come to an agreement with the Authors Guild about copyright infringement issues with its book-scanning project, and the issue of orphan works still remains unaddressed. The settlement, Miller writes, “essentially allows both sides to agree to disagree, and gives publishers the right to keep their books out of Google’s reach.”

It’s time for publishing to get back to business

If you (like me) have heard enough about “print vs digital,” the discussions and overall tone of this year’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference should warm your heart. In a guest post at The Guardian, Barry McIlheney, CEO of the PPA, talked about how the discussions and sessions at the conference focused on content, data, aggregation and conversion. He writes:

“… the rather tired and two-dimensional ‘print versus digital’ debate has now run its course. It has been replaced with a consensus that the focus should be on the content and not on the platform — an ideological return to the fundamental premise behind the business of publishing in the first place.

‘Digital,’ with its power to fuel destabilisation and innovation in equal measure, might once have been a label for the new and unknown, but today it is an accepted underlying force within the sector. And so, if publishing today is digital, then what the heck is digital publishing?”

McIlheney’s piece includes comments and thoughts from such industry leaders as Future’s Mike Goldsmith, Duncan Painter of the Top Right Group, Wired publisher Rupert Turnbull, Neelay Patel of The Economist, and New Scientist’s John MacFarlane. “It is surely a signifier of the sector’s growing sense of optimism,” McIlheney writes, “that this year’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference was a lot less about shiny new digital and a lot more about good old publishing itself.” His report is an inspiring read.

News gets more mobile; Google launches “experiment” to charge for content

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) in collaboration with The Economist Group released results from a new survey this week that showed a major shift in how news is being consumed and paid for. The following chart from the study’s infographic visualizes the growing mobile landscape and its subsequent effect on news consumption:

The study also addressed how people are — or aren’t — paying for news. According to the results, 31% of respondents who consume news on a tablet or smartphone are print-only subscribers (they consume mobile news gratis), 14% subscribe to both print and digital, and 9% are digital-only subscribers. Additionally, 33% of digital subscribers reported adding new subscriptions after acquiring a tablet.

The question of whether or not people are willing to pay for news continues to be bandied about, and Google this week set out to find out as it launched its Google Wallet micropayments for web contentexperiment.” Casey Newton at CNET reports that readers will be prompted to purchase articles, paying anywhere from $0.25 to $0.99 each, after which the consumer will own the article forever. Newton also notes there’s a fail-safe for consumers: “Google built an ‘instant refund’ into the product. Users who aren’t happy with the articles they purchase can get a refund within 30 minutes of their purchase.” Initial publishing partners include Peachpit, DK Publishing, and the Oxford University Press.

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