Rather than accept the Google settlement with publishers and authors as a fait accompli, or as an obligatory blueprint for the future, the appropriate response is to consider its implications for the future and take all steps to build the world we want to live in. Although the settlement may solve some immediate problems for the parties to the lawsuit, and perhaps some of the contributing libraries who have enabled it, we should not assume that Google Book Search is the only way, or even the best way, to organize and make available our cultural heritage.
This post will outline some of the issues. Next step is to build an appropriate response, to which we welcome input. Losing access and control of our cultural heritage as part of a digitization wave is not acceptable.
At its heart, the settlement agreement grants Google an effective monopoly on an entirely new commercial model for accessing books. It re-conceives reading as a billable event. This reading event is therefore controllable and trackable. It also forces libraries into financing a vending service that requires they perpetually buy back what they have already paid for over many years of careful collection.