Here’s a link to Karen Coyle’s comment on the recent hardly-earth-shattering news that the Association of American Publishers (AAP) has settled its five-year-old law suit with Google. And the headlines are about as exciting as a Taco Bell menu. Apparently the agreement between the AAP and Google allows the two parties to continue doing exactly what they’ve been doing for the past several years…posting 20% d’un livre on Google Books and selling cheap copies through Google eBooks. On the surface, this news item overwhelms one with a monotonous, well-tuned humdrum, but it still leaves a bit of a rotten aftertaste.
Tech blogger, Nicholas Carr, in his Pulitzer-finalist book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, expresses a profoundly ambivalent attitude towards Google, summed up in his chapter entitled “The Church of Google.” Naturally, having such a powerful set of tools to navigate the vast informational sea is quite helpful, but the search engine’s digital territoriality is somewhat less than inspiring. Sure, Google’s aim of “‘systematiz[ing] everything’ it does” and “‘quantify[ing] everything'” (p. 150) seems harmless enough, if not delusional, but its success and ruthlessly calculating approach have all but crowded out its competitors–Microsoft’s answer, Bing, offers pretty humorous commercials (this one is still a classic in misdirection) and adorns the classily sparse jerseys of the Seattle Storm (Coffeetown’s WNBA franchise), but it is still a remora on the underside of the Great Google Shark. For some statistical chum, check out these stats.
At least Google’s honest enough to admit to wanting “everything”–the quotes above came from CEO Eric Schmidt and fellow exec, Marissa Mayer. It takes some odd twist of courage to stand up and claim monopoly as ones birth right (or would that be “inception right” in this case?). Seriously, check this one out: “The most ambitious of Google’s initiatives–what Marissa Mayer calls its ‘moon shot’–is its effort to digitize all the books ever printed and make their text ‘discoverable and searchable online'” (p. 161). Of course, such an ambition isn’t going to sit well with everybody…especially authors and publishers. Oh, wait, that’s what this whole post is about, isn’t it? Looks like Google’s been doling out the right cuts of meat to quiet the watch dog. Now that the AAP has fallen into step in Google’s massive Lebensraum campaign, can the authors themselves be far behind? Will they even have a choice in the digital Sudetenland?
That odd aftertaste that Google leaves behind was summed up brilliantly by one of Mr. Carr’s readers who responded to a tongue-in-cheek response to one of the author’s more haiku-like blogs with even more tongue in just-as-much cheek:
Van der Leun
November 11, 2008 at 12:12 am
Hey, lay off. Can’t you see that Nick’s making a religious statement.
You have trod on a core belief. Yea, verily, it is spoken in Genesis 2.0.
In the beginning there was Google….
And later in Exodus 2.0: Thou shalt have no other Gods than Google lest Google smite thy page rank….
So tonight, when all is dark and you’re sure you’re all alone, go ahead. Go on. Bing yourself! You know you want to.