Feeds

Microsoft hands Google the future of digital books

Here, have a monopoly

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

While Bill Gates now holds a lucrative monopoly on digital images, his successors don't see the same prosperous future for the digital word. Microsoft is withdrawing from the Open Content Alliance digitisation project and will cease to scan books, the company said on Friday. It's abandoning its Live Book Search venture - a curious decision, since it effectively hands the future of the book to arch-rival Google.

Why? Because the Open Content Alliance is out of money - and Microsoft was by far the biggest financial backer.

Brewster Kahle, whose Internet Archive project is a key OCA member, admitted the financial impact of Microsoft's withdrawal was "significant" and that the Alliance now needed fresh resources to keep the scanners running. The initial $10m was almost completely exhausted.

Google differs from the impoverished Alliance in that it doesn't ask for permission from copyright holders; it simply instructs its stormtroopers - the participating libraries - to rev their machines and start copying.

For this, the ad giant has received lawsuits in the US and France from authors and publishers. Google has fought back using sock puppets of its own. Stanford Law School's anti-copyright centre has been helping out the Google cause - and received a $2m thank you in return.

(Curiously, "anti-corruption campaigner" Professor Lessig omits this relationship in his own, verbose declaration of interests - a taste of things to come, perhaps.)

Yet the policy will be brutally effective, with Google holding a monopoly on the printed word in book form.

Microsoft says it will donate the books digitised by Live Book Search to the copyright holders. Meanwhile, Google will surely never see a monopoly fall into its lap quite so easily. The future of digital books is now entirely in its hands.

(But perhaps not the future of books - given how superior paper technology is to digital. As Simon Jenkins wrote recently, the physical book just looks better all the time.)

Your thoughts, as ever, are most welcome. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.