I'm reminded of this while reading the letter by the University of California faculty to the judge in the Google/AAP settlement case. First they argue that the class represented by the Author's Guild does not include academics, who are major, if not the major, producers of authored texts. Then they state their three primary concerns:
- to maximize access, prices should be reasonable
- there must be provision for open access choices for authors who want to maximize access to their works
- user privacy must be guaranteed
All three of these concerns are premised on the acceptance of the settlement. There is another, perhaps more serious concern that isn't here, although it may not have been possible for this group because it could be incompatible with basic premises of the settlement. That concern is the question of INNOVATION.
We may be at a crossroads in the evolution of the book, one that could change forever how one goes about the acts of scholarship and knowledge creation. What happens when some portion of our previously analog texts is available digitally? What changes take place to the nature of research? What are the potential unintended consequences?
We don't know the answers to these questions, in part because they are about the future. It is probably safe to assume, however, that the future of the book is not a linear progression from where we are today, but that it could go in a number of different directions, ending up somewhere that we can't even imagine at this moment in time. To get there, we must experiment, we must innovate. There will be trial and error. There may not be a single "killer app." Above all, the change will make use of technology but it will essentially be a cultural change. Perhaps a massive cultural change.
Some commentators have said that the production of texts digitally makes books irrelevant, that the stable, book-length text will cease to exist as we know it today. Instead, we may be returning to our medieval roots, before texts were fixed by the repetitive nature of the printing process.  Others see digitization of previously analog books as a way to reassert the impact of the last 500 years of thought on scholarship. It is easy to imagine the discovery of long-hidden gems from the stacks of university libraries, just as it is easy to imagine being overwhelmed by marginal and irrelevant retrievals. The main thing is that we won't know until it happens.
We can have some fun speculating on the types of things that we may be able to do with these previously analog texts in the digital future: integrating these texts with those that were 'born digital;" creating hyperlinks between them (one's own personal Memex); recombining texts into new text; annotating and commenting in a public or semi-public sphere; mashing up text with sound and video and data. On a larger scale, we face the possibility of global topic maps that will show us previously undiscovered connections.
Which of these possibilities will be available to us, however, is up to Google, because under this settlement only Google has the right to innovate across the body of digitized texts. The rest of us, including the faculty of the universities whose libraries are providing the books, are merely consumers. We can buy the product, or not buy the product, but the raw materials, the digital copies of the library texts, belong to Google. The monetizing of the texts is the job of the Book Rights Registry (BRR) that will be formed, which will represent the rights holders. Google's job is to provide the product that will make monetization possible. Both of these entities, Google and the BRR, are focused on the price issue as their main concern. In that, they have much in common with the University of California faculty.
This is a perfect example of how the asking of a question shapes reality. The question surrounding the settlement is: are authors (as defined by the Author's Guild) served by the Google/AAP settlement -- yes or no? The bigger question, What is the future of the book in our civilization? is not on the table. Yet, in the end, that may be the question that is answered by this settlement, whether that outcome serves authors or not.
 Recommended reading: The Future of the Book (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).
[Note: I am aware that there are serious issues of copyright law in all of this; that it's not just a question of technology. Whether or not this settlement helps or hinders the evolution of copyright law is a discussion better left to those with a legal background. But it is an active part of the discussion around the settlement.]