This latest development represents a significant overture to publishers. Google hopes that through its Google Books function, Web searchers can pay a fee to access a digital copy of a book (which they will not be able to download to their PCs or copy). If they wish to buy hard copies, they would be directed by links to services like Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Amazon.com
If you recall, the publishing world has been peeved with Google for quite some time. Through its Google Print initiatives, the company sought to digitize books in their entirety, a plan that brought about all sorts of copyright controversy. My Foolish colleague Tim Beyers wrote about the fact that the Authors Guild sued Google last fall. (It's also been sued by the Association of American Publishers over its plans.)
It seems to me that this is a fine way to alleviate the tension between Google and publishers. Google said on its website that this will allow publishers a chance to experiment with a new method of distributing their content and get paid for it.
Meanwhile, of course, books are one of the final frontiers in digital media, seeing how the idea of e-books never took off (they represent a mere $10 million of the $24 billion publishing industry). The fact that it's still such a nascent area explains why Sony
For all that publishers have looked askance at Google's book plans, I can't help but think this is a winning situation for them (and another example of the ways in which the so-called "Long Tail Effect" is going to help bring the obscure to the mainstream). Meanwhile, it could get Google out of the hot seat when it comes to the controversial topic of digital copyright -- something Google investors certainly want to see.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.