Amazon and Google E-Book Developments

Amazon is expected to release a wireless e-book reader this October called Kindle. It's anticipated to be priced in $400-$500 range.

Also in the fall, Google is expected to offer charged access to the complete contents of digital books, with pricing to be determined by publishers.

Source: Stone, Brad. "Are Books Passé? Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books." The New York Times, 6 September 2006, C1, C9.

Athabasca University Establishes AU Press, an Open Access Publisher

Athabasca University has established AU Press, which will publish open access books, journals, and other digital publications.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

AU Press, Canada’s first 21st century university press, is dedicated to disseminating knowledge emanating from scholarly research to a broad audience through open access digital media and in a variety of formats (e.g., journals, monographs, author podcasts).

Our publications are of the highest quality and are assessed by peer review; however, we are dedicated to working with emerging writers and researchers to promote success in scholarly publishing.

Our geographical focus is Canada, the West, and the Circumpolar North, and we are mandated to publish innovative and experimental works that challenge the limits of established canons, subjects and formats. Series under development in several subject areas will promote and contribute to specific academic disciplines, and we aim to revitalize neglected forms such as diary, memoir and oral history.

At AU Press, we also publish scholarly websites with a particular focus on distance education and e-learning, labour studies, Métis and Aboriginal studies, gender studies and the environment.

Portico Studying E-Book Preservation

Portico is launching a e-Book preservation study, which will last the rest of the year.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

In response to several requests from publishers and libraries, Portico is conducting a study in order to assess how to extend its archival infrastructure and service to respond to the emerging need to preserve e-books. During the study we will analyze the structure and preservation needs of e-books and determine what adjustments to Portico's existing, operational and technological infrastructure and the economic model developed to support e-journal preservation might be required in order to respond to this new genre. Portico's e-journal archiving service was developed through a pilot project that drew heavily upon engagement with publisher and library pilot participants. We anticipate that a similar process will be essential in understanding how best to respond to the challenges of e-book preservation. . . .

The current participants in the E-Book Preservation study include:

Publishers

  • American Math Society
  • Elsevier
  • Morgan Claypool
  • Taylor and Francis

Libraries

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Cornell University Library
  • McGill University
  • SOLINET
  • Texas University Libraries
  • University College of London
  • Yale University Library

Cornell Joins Google Books Library Project

The Cornell University Library has joined the Google Books Library Project.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Google will digitize up to 500,000 works from Cornell University Library and make them available online using Google Book Search. As a result, materials from the library’s exceptional collections will be easily accessible to students, scholars and people worldwide, supporting the library’s long-standing commitment to make its collections broadly available.

“Research libraries today are integral partners in the academic enterprise through their support of research, teaching and learning. They also serve a public good by enhancing access to the works of the world's best minds,” said Interim University Librarian Anne R. Kenney. “As a major research library, Cornell University Library is pleased to join its peer institutions in this partnership with Google. The outcome of this relationship is a significant reduction in the time and effort associated with providing scholarly full-text resources online.”

Materials from Mann Library, one of 20 member libraries that comprise Cornell University Library, will be digitized as part of the agreement. Mann’s collections include some of the following subject areas: biological sciences, natural resources, plant, animal and environmental sciences, applied economics, management and public policy, human development, textiles and apparel, nutrition and food science.. . .

Cornell is the 27th institution to join the Google Book Search Library Project, which digitizes books from major libraries and makes it possible for Internet users to search their collections online. Over the next six years, Cornell will provide Google with public domain and copyrighted holdings from its collections. If a work has no copyright restrictions, the full text will be available for online viewing. For books protected by copyright, users will just get the basic background (such as the book’s title and the author’s name), at most a few lines of text related to their search and information about where they can buy or borrow a book. Cornell University Library will work with Google to choose materials that complement the contributions of the project’s other partners. In addition to making the materials available through its online search service, Google will also provide Cornell with a digital copy of all the materials scanned, which will eventually be incorporated into the university’s own digital library.

Open Access to Books: The Case of the Open Access Bibliography Updated

Last July, I reported on use of the Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals, which is both a printed book and a freely available e-book. Both versions are under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 License. You can get a detailed history at the prior posting; the major changes since then have been the conversion of the HTML version to XHTML and the addition of a Google Custom Search Engine.

So, what does cumulative use of the e-book OAB version look like slightly over one year down the road from the last posting? Here's a summary:

  • UH PDF: 29,255 (March through May 2005)
  • All Web files on both Digital Scholarship hosts: 192,849 (33,814 uses of the PDF file; June 2005 through July 2007)
  • dLIST PDF: 655 (March 2005 to present)
  • E-LIS PDF: 556 (November 2005 to present)
  • ARL PDF: Not Available

Combined, OAB Web files have been accessed 223,315 times since March 2005.

Turning the Pages on an E-Book—Realistic Electronic Books

In this June 26th Google Tech Talk video titled Turning the Pages on an E-Book—Realistic Electronic Books, Veronica Liesaputra, PhD candidate at the University of Waikato, discusses her research on realistic e-books.

Here’s an excerpt from the presentation’s abstract:

In this talk, I will describe and demo a lightweight realistic book implementation that allows a document to be automatically presented with quick and easy-to-use animated page turning, while still providing readers with many advantages of electronic documents, such as hyperlinks and multimedia. I will also review computer graphics models for page-turning, from complex physical models based on the finite element method through 3D geometric models to simple "flatland" models involving reflection and rotation—which is what the demo uses.

British Library Licenses Turning the Pages Toolkit

The British Library has announced that it is now licensing its Turning the Pages Toolkit to libraries and museums. You can see the software in action at their Turning the Pages Web site.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

From today, libraries around the World will be able to license the award-winning Turning the Pages software used by the British Library to bring some of the world’s most rare and valuable books online.

Since its launch in 2004, Turning the Pages has grown to become one of the most popular resources at the British Library, allowing the Library to bring iconic treasures such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebooks and Mercator’s Atlas of Europe online for everyone to see. With the launch of Turning the Pages 2.0, and a completely re-built software platform developed by Armadillo Systems, May 2007 also sees launch of a new "toolkit" that allows other libraries and museums around the World to create their own Turning the Pages gallery. . . .

Michael Stocking, Managing Director of Armadillo Systems and developer of the Turning the Pages software said "As well as making it easy for our customers to create their own collections, we also wanted to enhance the Turning the Pages experience. We have migrated the software to a new platform that places the book in a 3-D environment so, as well as being able to examine the book as a piece of text, users can now also examine it as an object. They can now look at the book from different angles, zoom in and even look at two books, side-by-side."

CLIR Receives Mellon Grant to Study Mass Digitization

According to a O’Reilly Radar posting, the Council on Library and Information Resources has been awarded a grant from the Mellon Foundation to study mass digitization efforts.

Here’s an excerpt from the posting that describes the grant’s objectives:

  1. Assess selected large scale digitization programs by exploring their efficacy and utility for conducting scholarship, in multiple fields or disciplines (humanities, sciences, etc.).
  2. Write and issue a report with findings and recommendations for improving the design of mass digitization projects.
  3. Create a Collegium that can serve in the long-term as an advisory group to mass digitization efforts, helping to assure and obtain the highest possible data quality and utility.
  4. Convene a series of meetings amongst scholars, libraries, publishers, and digitizing organizations to discuss ways of achieving these quality and design improvements.

Introducing the Networked Print Book

if:book reports that Manolis Kelaidis made a big splash at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference with his networked paper book.

Here’s a an excerpt from the posting:

Manolis Kelaidis, a designer at the Royal College of Art in London, has found a way to make printed pages digitally interactive. His "blueBook" prototype is a paper book with circuits embedded in each page and with text printed with conductive ink. When you touch a "linked" word on the page and your finger completes a circuit, sending a signal to a processor in the back cover which communicates by Bluetooth with a nearby computer, bringing up information on the screen.

Here’s an excerpt from a jusTaText posting about the demo:

Yes, he had a printed and bound book which communicated with his laptop. He simply touched the page, and the laptop reacted. It brought up pictures of the Mona Lisa. It translated Chinese. It played a piece of music. Kelaidis suggested that a library of such books might cross-refer, i.e. touching a section in one book might change the colors of the spines of related books on your shelves. Imagine.

POD for Library Users: New York Public Library Tries Espresso Book Machine

The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry, and Business Library has installed an Espresso Book Machine for public use through August.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

The first Espresso Book Machine™ ("the EBM") was installed and demonstrated today at the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL). The patented automatic book making machine will revolutionize publishing by printing and delivering physical books within minutes. The EBM is a product of On Demand Books, LLC ("ODB"—www.ondemandbooks.com). . .

The Espresso Book Machine will be available to the public at SIBL through August, and will operate Monday-Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. . . .

Library users will have the opportunity to print free copies of such public domain classics as "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens and "Songs of Innocence" by William Blake, as well as appropriately themed in-copyright titles as Chris Anderson’s "The Long Tail" and Jason Epstein’s own "Book Business." The public domain titles were provided by the Open Content Alliance ("OCA"), a non-profit organization with a database of over 200,000 titles. The OCA and ODB are working closely to offer this digital content free of charge to libraries across the country. Both organizations have received partial funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. . . .

The EBM’s proprietary software transmits a digital file to the book machine, which automatically prints, binds, and trims the reader’s selection within minutes as a single, library-quality, paperback book, indistinguishable from the factory-made title.

Unlike existing print on demand technology, EBM’s are fully integrated, automatic machines that require minimal human intervention. They do not require a factory setting and are small enough to fit in a retail store or small library room. While traditional factory based print on demand machines usually cost over $1,000,000 per unit, the EBM is priced to be affordable for retailers and libraries. . . .

Additional EBM’s will be installed this fall at the New Orleans Public Library, the University of Alberta (Canada) campus bookstore, the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, and at the Open Content Alliance in San Francisco. Beta versions of the EBM are already in operation at the World Bank Infoshop in Washington, DC and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (The Library of Alexandria, Egypt). National book retailers and hotel chains are among the companies in talks with ODB about ordering EBM’s in quantity.

The University of Maine and Two Public Libraries Adopt Emory’s Digitization Plan

Library Journal Academic Newswire reports that the University of Maine, the Toronto Public Library, and the Cincinnati Public Library will follow Emory University’s lead and digitize public domain works utilizing Kirtas scanners with print-on-demand copies being made available via BookSurge. (Also see the press release: "BookSurge, an Amazon Group, and Kirtas Collaborate to Preserve and Distribute Historic Archival Books.")

Source: "University of Maine, plus Toronto and Cincinnati Public Libraries Join Emory in Scan Alternative." Library Journal Academic Newswire, 21 June 2007.

CIC’s Digitization Contract with Google

Library Journal Academic Newswire has published a must-read article ("Questions Emerge as Terms of the CIC/Google Deal Become Public") about the Committee on Institutional Cooperation’s Google Book Search Library Project contract.

The article includes quotes from Peter Brantley, Digital Library Federation Executive Director, from his "Monetizing Libraries" posting about the contract (another must-read piece).

Here’s an excerpt from Brantley’s posting:

In other words—pretty much, unless Google ceases business operations, or there is a legal ruling or agreement with publishers that expressly permits these institutions (excepting Michigan and Wisconsin which have contracts of precedence) to receive digitized copies of In-Copyright material, it will be held in escrow until such time as it becomes public domain.

That could be a long wait. . . .

In an article early this year in The New Yorker, "Google’s Moon Shot," Jeffrey Toobin discusses possible outcomes of the antagonism this project has generated between Google and publishers. Paramount among them, in his mind, is a settlement. . . .

A settlement between Google and publishers would create a barrier to entry in part because the current litigation would not be resolved through court decision; any new entrant would be faced with the unresolved legal issues and required to re-enter the settlement process on their own terms. That, beyond the costs of mass digitization itself, is likely to deter almost any other actor in the market.

Emory Will Use Kirtas Scanner to Digitize Rare Books

Emory University’s Woodruff Library will use a Kirtas robotic book scanner to digitize rare books and to create PDF files that will be made available on the Internet and sold as print-on-demand books on Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

"We believe that mass digitization and print-on-demand publishing is an important new model for digital scholarship that is going to revolutionize the management of academic materials," said Martin Halbert, director for digital programs and systems at Emory’s Woodruff Library. "Information will no longer be lost in the mists of time when books go out of print. This is a way of opening up the past to the future."

Emory’s Woodruff Library is one of the premier research libraries in the United States, with extensive holdings in the humanities, including many rare and special collections. To increase accessibility to these aging materials, and ensure their preservation, the university purchased a Kirtas robotic book scanner, which can digitize as many as 50 books per day, transforming the pages from each volume into an Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). The PDF files will be uploaded to a Web site where scholars can access them. If a scholar wishes to order a bound, printed copy of a digitized book, they can go to Amazon.com and order the book on line.

Emory will receive compensation from the sale of digitized copies, although Halbert stressed that the print-on-demand feature is not intended to generate a profit, but simply help the library recoup some of its costs in making out-of-print materials available.

Google Library Project Adds Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)

The Google Book Search Library Project has an important new participant—the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). The CIC members are the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, Indiana University, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As many as 10 million volumes will be digitized from the collections of these major research libraries.

Here’s an excerpt from the CIC press release:

This partnership between our 12 member universities and Google is unprecedented. What makes this work so exciting is that we will literally open the pages of millions of books that have been assembled on our library shelves over more than a century. In literally seconds, we’ll be able browse across the content of thousands of volumes, searching for words or phrases, and making links across those texts that would have taken weeks or months or years of dedicated and scrupulous analysis. It is an extraordinary effort, blending the efforts and aspirations of librarians, university administrators, and scholars from across 12 world-class research universities. And our corporate partner possesses unparalleled expertise in creating and opening the digital world to coherent and comprehensive searching.

The effort is not entirely without controversy—no great undertaking ever is. But our universities believe strongly in the power of information to change the world, and in preserving, protecting and extending access to information. We have carefully weighed and considered the intellectual property issues and believe that our effort is firmly within the guidelines of current copyright law, while providing some flexibility as those laws are tested in the new digital environment in the coming years.

Lawsuit Aside, McGraw-Hill Uses Google Book Search

According to an article in Network World, McGraw-Hill uses Google Book Search on its Web site in spite of the fact that it is suing Google over the product.

How can this be? McGraw-Hill participates in the Google Book Search Partner Program, which gives publishers control over access to their digitized books, but, at the same time, it objects to Google’s efforts to scan and make available copies of its books in libraries without its permission.

Source: Perez, Juan Carlos. "Google’s Book Search Available in Publisher Sites." Network World, 1 June 2007.

E-Book Trial on ScienceDirect

Elsevier has announced that it is conducting an e-book trial on ScienceDirect with over 900 research libraries and corporations.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

The trial will provide participating institutes with preliminary access to 500 of the 4,000 scientific and technical books that will be launched on ScienceDirect in the third quarter of 2007. . . .

The eBooks program represents a major expansion to the reference works, handbooks and book series already available on ScienceDirect. At launch, the program will comprise high-quality selected titles published from 1995 to the present day. The books will cover a wide range of scientific disciplines, including those published under the renowned Pergamon and Academic Press imprints. Following the launch, approximately 50 newly published titles will be added to the eBooks list on ScienceDirect each month, offering researchers unparalleled integration and linking between the latest online book and journal information.

European Digital Library Prototype Launches

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has launched a prototype of the European Digital Library (Europeana).

Here’s an excerpt from "France Launches Francophone Digital Library":

Europeana—as the cyber library is named—currently offers access to some 12,000 public domain full-text documents but is set to have by 2010 over 6 million books, movies, photographs and other documents from across the European Union countries. . . .

"We want to make it so that Europe is not entirely abandoned to an American search engine," said Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the head of BNF, according to French press reports.

The "The European Digital Library in 16 Questions" provides further information about the project.

A press release about the launch is also available (in French).

Polimetrica Publisher: An Open Access Book Publisher

Polimetrica Publisher is a scientific open access book publisher. It has published a number of books in the areas of applied, pure, and human sciences.

This excerpt from its "Our Open Access Manifesto" describes its philosophy and business model:

Polimetrica Publisher works from a simple premise: that for a better future of the people it’s possible to disseminate the knowledge by publishing innovative books freely accessible to anyone in the world who might be interested.

Informed by that premise, we’re trying to build a new model of scientific publishing that embraces economic self-subsistence, openness, and fairness; the model is based on the following elements:

  1. each scientific book is published in two editions: a printed edition, available in the market, and an electronic edition, freely available through the web; both editions are identified by a different ISBN code.
  2. each scientific book is edited in collaboration with universities or with authoritative professors or specialists.
  3. the printed edition is distributed on the international market.
  4. the electronic edition is free access through the Polimetrica web site.
  5. Polimetrica pays to the author or to the academic institution on all sales of the printed edition a 10% royalty of the net receipts.
  6. each scientific publication is funded by a contribution of 1.500 Euros about.
  7. anyone interested in our activities is encouraged to buy a membership; the members will have access to special conditions. Additional information are at the page
    http://www.polimetrica.com/main/membership.php

Polimetrica Publisher currently has three membership options that provide a specified number of books on CD-ROM/DVD, discount prices, and newsletters.

To download free digital book, the user fills out a form providing name, country, and e-mail address. A download link is sent to the provided e-mail address.

A book that may be of particular interest to DigitalKoans readers is Open Access: Open Problems.

Digitization Copyright Wars: Microsoft Blasts Google at AAP

Microsoft Associate General Counsel Thomas Rubin took off the gloves at the Association of American Publishers meeting on Tuesday. The target: Google Book Search. The goal: to contrast Google’s approach to copyright issues associated with digitizing books with Microsoft’s more publisher-friendly approach.

Rubin’s comments included the following:

The stated goal of Google’s Book Search project is to make a copy of every book ever published and bring it within Google’s vast database of indexed content. While Google says that it doesn’t currently intend to place ads next to book search results, Google’s broader business model is straightforward—attract as many users as possible to its site by providing what it considers to be "free" content, then monetize that content by selling ads. I think Pat Schroeder put it best when she said Google has "a hell of a business model—they’re going to take everything you create, for free, and sell advertising around it."

To accomplish its book search goals, Google persuaded several libraries to give it unfettered access to their collections, both copyrighted and public domain works. It also entered into agreements with several publishers to acquire rights to certain of their copyrighted books. Despite such deals, in late 2004 Google basically turned its back on its partners. Concocting a novel "fair use" theory, Google bestowed upon itself the unilateral right to make entire copies of copyrighted books not covered by these publisher agreements without first obtaining the copyright holder’s permission.

Google’s chosen path would no doubt allow it to make more books searchable online more quickly and more cheaply than others, and in the short term this will benefit Google and its users. But the question is, at what long-term cost? In my view, Google has chosen the wrong path for the longer term, because it systematically violates copyright and deprives authors and publishers of an important avenue for monetizing their works. In doing so, it undermines critical incentives to create. . . .

Google defends its actions primarily by arguing that its unauthorized copying and future monetization of your books are protected as fair use. . . .

In essence, Google is saying to you and to other copyright owners: "Trust us—you’re protected. We’ll keep the digital copies secure, we’ll only show snippets, we won’t harm you, we’ll promote you." But Google’s track record of protecting copyrights in other parts of its business is weak at best.

Rubin also discussed Microsoft’s Live Search Academic and Live Search Books in some detail.

Here are some of the more interesting articles and postings about the speech:

Meanwhile, the Bavarian State Library has just joined Google’s library partners, adding about one million books to the project.

Rice University Names Head of Its Digital Press

Fred Moody has been chosen to head the reborn-digital Rice University Press. Based in Seattle (where he will remain), Moody is a journalist and author of books such as I Sing The Body Electronic, Seattle and the Demons of Ambition: From Boom to Bust in the Number One City of the Future, and The Visionary Position: the Inside Story of the Digital Dreamers Who Are Making Virtual Reality a Reality. Moody holds an MLS from the University of Michigan.

Below is an excerpt from the Rice News article ("Moody Tapped to Head Rice University Press"):

The press will start out publishing art history books and grow as peer review panels are added. A second imprint at the press—called Long Tail Press—will be added so publishing can be done in partnership with other university presses. It will allow for previously published books to be published again on a digital platform. It will also allow for books that have been accepted at fellow university presses, but haven’t been printed because of cost, to be published.

"My goal is to grow Rice’s reputation for quality first, and to grow the size of the press—in terms both of number of books published and number of disciplines published—almost as fast," Moody said. "The idea is not so much to grow a huge business as to grow the best forum in the world for scholarly research."

(Prior postings about digital presses.)

Stanford’s President and the Google Book Search Library Project

The Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy article about the personal finances of John L. Hennessy, president of Stanford University, today ("The Golden Touch of Stanford’s President"). It kicks off by noting that Hennessy made $1 million last November that didn’t come from Stanford.

The last seven paragraphs are of interest, since they discuss Stanford’s relationship to the Google Book Search Library Project. The Executive Director of the Author’s Guild says that Hennessy’s Google holdings are a "great concern" and there "seems to be both a personal and institutional profit motive here." The Stanford general counsel indicates that Hennessy was not part of discussions about Google Book Search Library Project. Another issue is Google’s $2 million gift to the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society to promote fair use. Lawrence Lessig denies that the Google gift had any "quid pro quo" implications, and the former Law School Dean indicates that Hennessy had no part in the Google gift.

Concerns about potential conflict of interest may be fueled by Hennessy’s $11 million gains from sale of Google stock and use of stock options, his current Google stock holdings valued at $2.3 million, and his Google stock options that may be worth $15.8 million if exercised.

Source: Hechinger, John, and Rebecca Buckman. "The Golden Touch of Stanford’s President." The Wall Street Journal, 24 Febuary 2007, A1, A10.

Princeton Joins Google Book Search Library Project

The Princeton University Library has announced that it has joined the Google Book Search Library Project.

From the press release:

A new partnership between the Princeton University Library and Google soon will make approximately 1 million books in Princeton’s collection available online in a searchable format.

In a move designed to open Princeton’s vast resources to a broad international audience, the library will work with Google over the next six years to digitize books that are in the public domain and no longer under copyright. . . .

"We will be working with Google in the next several months to choose the subject areas to be digitized and the timetable for the work," [Karin] Trainer said. "Library staff, faculty and students will be invited to suggest which parts of our distinctive collections should be digitized."

Princeton is the 12th institution to join the Google Books Library Project. Books available in the Google Book Search also include those from collections at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, the University of California, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the New York Public Library, the University Complutense of Madrid and the National Library of Catalonia.

Google also announced the new partnership in its Inside Google Book Search blog.

New Yorker Google Book Search Article

The New Yorker has published an article about Google Book Search by Jeffrey Toobin in its February 5, 2007 issue ("Google’s Moon Shot: The Quest for the Universal Library").

Here’s a quote from the article:

Google asserts that its use of the copyrighted books is "transformative," that its database turns a book into essentially a new product. "A key part of the line between what’s fair use and what’s not is transformation," Drummond said. "Yes, we’re making a copy when we digitize. But surely the ability to find something because a term appears in a book is not the same thing as reading the book. That’s why Google Books is a different product from the book itself." In other words, Google says that being able to search books on its site—which it describes as the equivalent of a giant library card catalogue—is not the same as making the books themselves available. But the publishers cite another factor in fair-use analysis: the amount of the copyrighted work that is used in the creation of the new one. Google is copying entire books, which doesn’t sound "fair" to the plaintiff publishers and authors.

Has Authorama.com "Set Free" 100 Public Domain Books from Google Book Search?

In a posting on Google Blogoscoped, Philipp Lenssen has announced that he has put up 100 public domain books from Google Book Search on Authorama.

Regarding his action, Lenssen says:

In other words, Google imposes restrictions on these books which the public domain does not impose*. I’m no lawyer, and maybe Google can print whatever guidelines they want onto those books. . . and being no lawyer, most people won’t know if the guidelines are a polite request, or legally enforceable terms**. But as a proof of concept—the concept of the public domain—I’ve now ‘set free’ 100 books I downloaded from Google Book Search by republishing them on my public domain books site, Authorama. I’m not doing this out of disrespect for the Google Books program (which I think is cool, and I’ll credit Google on Authorama) but out of respect for the public domain (which I think is even cooler).

Since Lenssen has retained Google’s usage guidelines in the e-books, it’s unclear how they have been "set free," in spite of the following statement on Authorama’s Books from Google Book Search page:

The following books were downloaded from Google Book Search and are made available here as public domain. You can download, republish, mix and mash these books, for private or public, commercial or non-commercial use.

Leaving aside the above statement, Lenssen’s action appears to violate the following Google usage guideline, where Google asks that users:

Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

However, in the above guideline, Google uses the word "request," which suggests voluntary, rather than mandatory, compliance. Google also requests attribution and watermark retention.

Maintain attribution The Google ‘watermark’ you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

Note the use of the word "please."

It’s not clear how to determine if Google’s watermark remains in the Authorama files, but, given the retention of the usage guidelines, it likely does.

So, do Google’s public domain books really need to be "set free"? In its usage guidelines, Google appears to make compliance requests, not compliance requirements. Are such requests binding or not? If so, the language could be clearer. For example, here’s a possible rewording:

Make non-commercial use of the files Google Book Search is for individual use only, and its files can only be used for personal, non-commercial purposes. All other use is prohibited.