Feeds

Microsoft hands Google the future of digital books

Here, have a monopoly

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.