"Earthsea" Author Questions Google Books - NBC Bay Area

"Earthsea" Author Questions Google Books

Award-winning novelist Ursula K. Le Guin resigns from author group that negotiated with Google.



    "Earthsea" Author Questions Google Books
    Getty Images
    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.

    Award-winning novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, for one, has decided not to welcome her new Google overlords.

    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.