Google Rises to Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon Google Book Search Challenge

Google is now facing threats to its Google Book Search deal from Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon and a host of other concerns who have joined the Open Book Alliance. Led by the Internet Guild and antitrust lawyer Gary Reback, the coalition aims to call the Department of Justice' attention to Google's quest to organize the world's books online. Several libraries, organizations and privacy pundits have come forth to oppose the deal, or propose changes to it. Parties have until Sept. 4 to file opposition papers with the New York court reviewing the settlement.

Opposition to Google's Book Search settlement with authors and publishers continues to mount, as Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are joining a new coalition to influence the Department of Justice to force Google to revise the deal.

The non-profit Internet Archive group next week plans to announce the Open Book Alliance, a gathering of companies and library associations poised to challenge Google's settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. As part of the deal, Google agreed to scan the world's books online and charge users for access to them.

With Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon leading the way, the Open Book Alliance poses the biggest single front of opposition to the deal yet. Microsoft and Yahoo, whose search businesses may suffer from traffic to the Google Books site, have confirmed their participation to eWEEK. Amazon, which offers digital books through its Kindle electronic reader, declined to comment, though it is likely it is concerned Google could impose unfair pricing schemes for books it licenses.

The coalition is co-led by Internet Archive Director Peter Brantley and Gary Reback, an antitrust attorney in Silicon Valley who became famous for leading the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation against Microsoft.

Brantley told eWEEK that he is forming the Open Book Alliance because many groups are concerned the Google Book Search settlement impinges competition and innovation, raising antitrust issues. Brantley and others, such as the Special Libraries Association, the New York Library Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, are challenging Google's contention that the agreement will lead to an open marketplace dedicated to helping users find more books online.

"While individual organizations might choose different paths to suggest how they want to change the settlement, we all had similar concerns," Brantley said in a phone interview Aug. 21.

Asked whether the Open Book Alliance wants the DOJ to dissolve the deal entirely, Brantley said: "The goal is not so much that the goal is to kill the settlement. Really, what we're trying to do is suggest some possible paths that might create a more open and competitive market for books."

Google didn't flinch at this threat. Asked to comment on the Open Book Alliance, Google spokesperson Gabriel Stricker told eWEEK Aug. 21: "The Google Books settlement is injecting more competition into the digital books space, so it's understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition."

Stricker also offered a parting shot to Microsoft, noting that "it's ironic that some of these complaints are coming from a company that abandoned its book digitization effort because it lacked "'commercial intent'."