Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Google and the Future of Publishing

Joe Esposito, at the Society for Scholarly Publishing blog, offers tough-minded comments about Google in a post titled "Publishing in the Google Ecosystem." He notes widespread misgivings, especially in Europe, about Google's ever-expanding array of online book content, to which his response is:
Google is now the defining entity in the information landscape.  To flourish, as best as publishers can hope to flourish, it’s necessary to find a place within the Google ecosystem.  There is no world elsewhere, no little pocket of commerce beyond the reach of Google’s audience aggregation, no opportunity to erect protectionist barriers or to appeal to the legacy of one’s own institutions.  To those who resent Google’s huge bulk and ambition, it has to be said:  Get over it.
There are some interesting replies in the comment thread, disputing some of his premises--the whole discussion is worth reading. My own take, as of now, is much along the lines of Esposito's. I worry about any one company having so much power, not just over my industry but in the cultural marketplace in general. But: a) Google is a fact, and it's simply not going to go away and b) Its products and tools have already been enormously beneficial to publishers and authors (and we have by no means fully exploited them). There's no single more pervasive, more perennial, more frustrating problem in selling any book than the number of people who don't know it exists. 

I'll talk about this more in a future post. But to me it seems clear that Google is the best solution for this problem that we've ever had. We may be skeptical as to whether Google is a force for good or feel that publishers and authors should have a greater share of the revenue Google reaps from book content. But since Google's not going away any time soon, our task is to use it to the fullest.