Jesse Jarnow

a modest proposal about google books

The best of all possible worlds includes a free, perfectly indexed database containing the complete text of every book ever published. There is no way to argue that this would be anything but good.

On one hand, from a legal point of view, we are a long way from figuring out how to make that work. On the other hand, from a technical perspective, it’s already been done, though — owing to, y’know, reality — one can only use a few pages at a time.

Why not allow users to get a few sample pages, and then modify the Google database to give them the option to buy further pages at five cents a pop? The standardized pricing seems to be working just fine over at the iTunes Store, and a nickel a sheet seems quite reasonable. Users would end up with basically the same hard copy as if they’d gone to the library, found books, and xeroxed them.

Sure, that would open up oodles of new issues (and royally screw-up any opt-out plan), but it seems like it could solve more problems than it’d cause. Who knows? If Google can figure out how to make the database to begin with, they should be able to lick this one, too.


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