Internet users on Thursday had an initial, and largely positive, experience with what search giant Google Inc. meant two years ago when it said it was going to make books freely available to read online.
As previously reported, people were drawn to Googles Google Print Web site because of news that millions of classic books were now part of the digital library stacks, and could be freely read cover-to-cover.
Before Thursday, there were "very few" books available for wholesale consumption on the print.google.com site, said a Google spokesman.
One of the most important visitors Thursday to the site was Paul Aiken, the executive director of The Authors Guild, one of two professional organizations that believes Google is actually operating a giant copyright infringing operation.
He remained resolved to fight the service, even after a quick tour Thursday of the newly expanded digital library left Aiken unable to confirm, but still not dismiss, any of his worst fears about rampant theft of copyrighted material. "We are not going to change our posture in the case," he said in a telephone interview.
The Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers, have filed separate lawsuits against Google in the last few weeks. The litigation claims Google Print is actually violating copyrights on a scale the publishing industry has never before encountered.
The lawsuits, filed in the same U.S. District Court, target Google Prints use of the libraries of four major universities. Google no longer considers the books subject to copyright law, and therefore can be made freely available. But the publishing and authors groups disagree.
The legal controversy, out of which new copyright laws are likely to emerge, deepens Nov. 30, which is Googles deadline to make its first defense against the copyright infringement allegations.
"Today, we demonstrated the ongoing momentum of the Google Print program," said Google spokesman Nate Tyler. "What we have to look forward to is lots and lots more books being available."
As the two sides prepare for the court showdown, Google is also working on fixing some minor technical issues emerging Thursday with print.google.com, the main Web portal that Google Print operates from.
A source said Google had too finely-tuned a mechanism for detecting automated efforts to search its print.google.com site, resulting in too many false positives. The company was in the process of making the proper adjustments to its commonly used "captcha" program, the source said.
Google also hadnt readied a technique that allows Google Print users to more easily search for books that were published before 1923, which means theres no argument that they are no longer under copyright law, and therefore some stood a very good chance of being available to be read cover-to-cover.