My 311 class and I just read Allen’s chapter (from our book) on digital archives. We spent some time talking about the role of copyright in what is available online, and did a little searching on Google Book Search. We even talked about relying on Google Books for an entire curriculum. Given our conversation, the recent settlement that Google reached with the Author’s Guild (and other plaintiffs) is interesting:

Google Settles Suit Over Book-Scanning
By MIGUEL HELFT and MOTOKO RICH
October 28, 2008

Since 2004, Google has been working with university and research libraries to create digital scans of their collections. Of the approximately seven million books that Google has already scanned, four million to five million are out of print.

Google now makes the content of those books available in its book search service but shows only snippets of text, unless it has permission from the copyright holder to show more.

Under the agreement, Google will now show up to 20 percent of the text at no charge to users. It will also make the entire book available online for a fee. Universities, libraries and other organizations will be able to buy subscriptions that make entire collections of those books available to their visitors.
Complete article.

What this means is that many books that were nearly impossible to buy (except at outlandish prices) are going to be available for download for–hopefully–a small fee. When I taught high school English, I wanted to teach a poetry collection by Gwendolyn Brooks called A Street in Bronzeville (1945). It was, unfortunately, out of print, and has been ever since. I see the cheapest copy I can buy on Amazon is $75.00.

Google Books, on the other hand, has a copy scanned right now, though it offers no preview. If the original publishers (Harper) of the collection agree, it may be that Google will make the text available for download–and probably for less than $75.00. Cool.

Go Google, go. Now, about my search ranking . . .