Publishers hate Google. So much so, in fact, that the CEO of Macmillan Publishers stole two of Google’s laptop. He did it to make a point. He is upset that Google is making digital copies of books in hopes of making information more accessible to you and me.
No, they are not giving those copies away. Once a person finds something of interest in a book, they are shown where they can purchase or check out said book. But the publisher is mad because Google is a threat to his business. Publishers are the candle makers, and Google just brought out the light bulb.
It’s clear to see why Google strikes fear into the collective hearts
of publishers everywhere. Look at what they’ve done to advertising.
Advertisers spend billions of dollars on getting their message to
their potential customers. In the old days (10 years ago), who got
that money? Let me give you a clue, it wasn’t you or me. If you
happened to own a television station you got some of the money. Newspapers, magazines, radio stations… if you happened to own any of
these, then you got the money. It’s important to note that the money
went in large part to a very small group of people. Lots of money, not
Then Google came along. Things are beginning to change. Now if you
have a blog with a few hundred readers, you get part of that money. Oh
sure, you’re not making millions (well, most of you aren’t), but a
whole lot of people are making thousands, and even more are making
hundreds. Google has done something that keeps a lot of CEOs up at
night; they’ve spread the wealth. Bad for them, good for us.
Book publishers see the writing on the wall. Book publishers run a
whole lot of mini-monopolies. Don’t like paying $30 for the latest
Harry Potter? Too bad, Scholastic runs the show. You can’t buy the
book anywhere else. Ever wonder why you can pick up a Jack London
book for $3, but a Steven King novel goes for $15? It’s not because
they print the Steven King book on better paper. It’s because there
are other publishers publishing Jack London. There is competition. Steven King can demand a larger royalty, and the publishers know their
fans will pay X amount, so they charge it. The readers can’t go
anywhere else, they either pay up or shut up.
So book publishers have a monopoly, and you can bet that they like
the status quo. ANY move that threatens that status quo will be met
with lawsuits (as we’ve seen already).
Never mind that being able to search the printed text of a
university library could be a great benefit to thousands of students,
and millions of people who can’t physically get to the library. If it
is going to affect the bottom line of the few, then it can’t be a good
Which is why I personally was pleased to see this announcement
in the Chronicle of Higher Education. More universities see the value
of digital copies, and I hope that publishers will eventually see the
light as well.