This fine piece on Search Engine Land by Danny Sullivan underscores the disconnect between Google and opponents of the proposed Google Book Search settlement.
Sullivan asks Google CEO Eric Schmidt whether Google, which has already crafted a template of a complex system for scanning books online and licensing their use to readers, would go back to "square one." Schmidt replied:
"I'm open to a better solution. You will recall, we had our solution, and we were sued over it. And we then had a god-knows-how-many-years of negotiations with 27 parties, and we've actually produced a deal. ... I would like to hear from the critics a better solution to the problem as opposed to criticisms of the solution that we arrived at after four years of negotiation. I read this stuff, and it strikes me that people who only criticize have as their interest the current status quo."
None of the critics has put forward an alternative. Lord knows Amazon wishes Google would just shrivel up and blow away when it comes to digitizing books because it threatens Amazon's own scanning and Kindle prospects. Not happening.
Microsoft and Yahoo get FAIL labels for their book search endeavors, and both stand to lose some search engine traffic should Google Book Search succeed in drawing more users online, clicking to digitally rent books (and see ads!). Ouch.
Privacy advocates aren't technically capable of providing a solution, other than to say, "Don't save any information on readers."
Consumer advocates have blind hate of large companies they feel are getting too big for their britches. They may not understand fully what they are opposing, but they look at keywords like "Google," "scanning," "millions" and "books" and decide Google is getting too full of itself.
These are the people who in their head (or at cocktail parties with cronies) want to know what in the world we need to scan books online for anyway. What's wrong with the U.S. public library system? People who ask this miss the point.
So where does the solution come from? Schmidt is right to ask the question. There is too much status quo-hawking and not enough willingness to take a plunge into a new frontier.
It's a catch-22, all right. Google is a moving target, so many factions oppose Google Book Search because it is large and in charge online. Yet no other company has a big enough purview online to make such a scanning endeavor work. All apologies to Amazon.
All of this makes me wonder how much weight the pro-Google Book Search arguments from civil rights groups will carry with New York District Judge Denny Chin. Meanwhile, tomorrow is the Justice Department's deadline from Chin to comment on the deal.
What will the DOJ say?