Widely respected novelist Ursula K. Le Guin is known for her thoughtful, well-wrought science fiction -- but finds the future of Google Books a frightening one.
In a scathing open letter to the Author's Guild, which negotiated a controversial settlement with Google over its Google Books project and of which Le Guin has been a member for over 35 years, Le Guin chose to quit the organization:
You decided to deal with the devil, as it were, and have presented your arguments for doing so. I wish I could accept them. I can't. There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle.
The Author's Guild response fantasized about beating Google in court, but said the more pragmatic approach was a settlement that gave Google alone special rights to scan, index, and present excerpts of English-language books within the United States.
Borrowing a page from President Barack Obama chastising supporters critical of his health reform package, the Author's Guild essentially admits that a corporation will enjoy ever more eye-popping profits, sure, but think of all the benefits to everyone involved -- specially the corporation, which now has legal cover to monopolize the business of book search!
Meanwhile, another noted author is considering taking Google to court over copyright violations -- this time in China. Mian Mian, whose novels explore the shadowy street life of China's manufacturing boomtowns, is preparing a suit after discovering her work indexed on Google Books.
China is generally on the "Most Wanted" list of copyright scofflaws -- not to mention the fact that Mian's book is banned there. Hence the irony: Google Books might be one way readers might discover her otherwise unavailable work.
Google recently lost a lawsuit brought by publisher La Martiniere in France, which is working on developing a competitive online library.
Jackson West figures we're living in a sci-fi fantasy where no "content" can escape from Google -- up to you if it's a utopia or dystopia.