Reading the FAQ (not the full 140+ page document), it seems to go like this:
Google makes a copy of a book.
Google lets people search on words in the book.
Google lets people pay to see the book, perhaps buy the book, with some money going to the rights holder.
Google manages all of this with a registry of rights.
Now, replace the word "Google" above with "Kinko's."
Next, replace the word "Google" above with "A library."
TILT! If Google is allowed to do this, shouldn't anyone be allowed to do it? Is Jeff Bezos kicking himself right now for playing by the rules? Did Google win by going ahead and doing what no one else dared to do? Can they, like Microsoft, flaunt the law because they can buy their way out of any legal pickle?
Ping! Next thought: we already have vendors of e-books who provide this service for libraries. They serve up digital, encoded versions of the books, not scans of pages. These digital books often have some very useful features, such as allowing the user to make notes, copy quotes of a certain length, create bookmarks, etc. The current Google Books offering is very feature poor. Also, because it is based on scans, there is no flowing of pages to fit the screen. The OCR is too poor to be useful to the sight-impaired. And if they sell books, what will the format be?
TILT! Will it even be legal for a publicly-funded library to provide Google books if they aren't ADA compliant?
Ping! This one I have to quote:
"Public libraries are eligible to receive one free Public Access Service license for a computer located on-site at each of their library buildings in the United States. Public libraries will also be able to purchase a subscription which would allow them to offer access on additional terminals within the library building and would eliminate the requirement of a per page printing fee. Higher education institutions will also be eligible to receive free Public Access Service licenses for on-site computers, the exact number of which will depend on the number of students enrolled."
TILT! Were any public libraries asked about this? Does anyone have an idea of what it will cost them to 1) manage this limited access and pay-per-page printing 2) obtain more licenses when demand rises? Remember when public libraries only had one machine hooked up to the Internet? Is this the free taste that leads to the Google Books habit?
Ping! The e-book vendors only provide books where they have an agreement with the publishers, thus no orphan works are included. So, will Google's niche mainly consist of providing access to orphan works? Or will the current e-book vendors be forced out of the market because Google's total base is larger, even though the product may be inferior?
Ping! We already have a licensor of rights, the Copyright Clearance Center, and it was founded with the support of the very folks (the AAP) who have now agreed to create another organization, funded initially by Google and responding only to the licensing of Google-held content.
TILT! Google books gets its own licensing service, its own storefront... can anyone compete with that? And what happens to anything that Google doesn't have?
Ping! It looks like Google will collect fees on all books that are not in the public domain. This means that users will pay to view orphan works, even though a vast number of them are actually in the public domain. Unclaimed fees will go to pay for the licensing service. Thus, users will be paying for the service itself, and will be paying to view books they should be able to access freely and for free.
Ping! We have a copyright office run by the US government. I'm beginning to wonder what that Copyright Office does, however, since we now have two non-profit organizations in the business of managing rights, plus others getting into the game, such as OCLC with its rights assessment registry, and folks like Creative Commons. Shouldn't the Copyright Office be the go-to place to find out who owns the rights to a work? Shouldn't we be scanning the documents held by the Copyright Office that tell us who has rights? (Note: the famed renewal database is actually a scan of the INDEX to the copyright renewal documents, not the full information about renewal.) Even if we had access to every copyright registration document in the Copyright Office, would we know who owns various rights? I think not. And how much of this will change with the Google opt-in system? I get the feeling that we'll maybe resolve some small percentage of rights questions, somewhere in the order of 2-5%. And it will, in the end, all be paid for by readers, or by libraries on behalf of readers.
TILT! Rights holders can opt-out of the Google Books database. If (when) Google has the monopoly on books online, opt-out will be a nifty form of censorship. Actually, censorship aimed directly at Google will be a nifty form of censorship.
GAME OVER. All your book belong to us.