Larry Page and Sergey Bin's mission "to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" has resulted in an entire reference library at our fingertips. Google Book Search is a much-needed democratisation of knowledge.
We are now a nation of online shoppers, able to browse the offerings in our local bookshops and then buy them so much cheaper at Amazon (or Play.com). Amazon tells us about books we haven't even heard of and allows us to Search Inside. And the Kindle e-reader means any book any time!
Aside from intruding into our lives, Google has made us lazy. Research once meant books and a trip to the library, but these days we just let our fingers do the walking. Google Books gives far too much power to a company which has not always adhered to its unofficial slogan, "don't be evil". Now, despsite court challenges, it is seeking to establish an effective monopoly over digital access and distribution, and to strip writers of contractual rights.
The e-tailer has established a stranglehold on publishers that allows it to dictate terms and change them without consultation. Its price cuts are detrimental to the health of independent booksellers, which have become a mere research channel. With Booksurge and the Kindle e-reader, it is attempting to establish monopolies in the two growth areas of publishing and bookselling, print-on-demand and e-books.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Google and Amazon: both heroes...and villains of the publishing industry today.