What were you thinking when you sued the Google LIbrary Project, Authors? Long live the Author Alliance!
What are you thinking, Herb Mitgang? (originally posted on 8/7/2008)
The Association of American University Presses provides a useful summary of the Google Book Search Program:
Many university and scholarly presses have participated enthusiastically in the Publisher program, which allows their print publications to be indexed and displayed to an appropriate extent through Google's beta online index of print materials while protecting their own, their authors' and third parties' rights. The Library program has proven controversial, as Google plans to scan, digitize, and copy not only public domain works from world-class research libraries, but also the in-copyright collections of at least some of those libraries. The libraries are the Bodleian at Oxford University, Harvard University Library, the University of Michigan Library, the New York Public Library, and Stanford University Library.
In short, Google Book Search is a boon to researchers, allowing them to locate books relevant to their research in libraries they could not possibly ever have visited. They then can obtain the books, either through inter-library loans or through online purchases. Without Google Book Search, in other words, myriads of profoundly useful books scattered around the world would remain utterly invisible to the vast majority of people with interest in them.
Which brings me to Herbert Mitgang. Mitgang is one of the named plaintis in the Authors Guild lawsuit seeking to shut down the Google Library Project. Mitgang was born in 1920, and since the 1950s he has been a prolic writer in numerous genres, from journalism to ction to biography. Among his books are three on Abraham Lincoln.
Mitgang, however, is hardly a household name. His books on Lincoln are still in print, but, despite my acquaintaince with several amateur Lincoln-obsessed readers, none of them have read any of Mitgang's Lincoln books. Mitgang is 87 years old. It seems quite likely therefore that, within a decade or so, the only feasible way Lincoln researchers will be able to obtain his books will be from the collections being scanned by the Google Library project.
In short, I cannot begin to imagine why Mitgang wants to shut down the Google Library Project. Without it, his books will likely fade into oblivion. On the other hand, if the Google Library Project is a success, there is every possibility that future Lincoln researchers might come across and use Mitgang's Lincoln books. I wish I could get in a room and ask him: Why are you doing this? Do you really want your life's work to disappear entirely from the sight of future researchers?
My sister, a lifelong writer, for years bristled at my views of copyright. She's come around. The fact that the entire corpus of one genre she's worked in for decades, the retelling of folk tales for children, is available online has, she's realized, made her more visible, more attractive to publishers, students, and producers of other media. Exposure is, it seems, the lifeblood of an artist; putting one's work behind a fence, on the other hand, will only make it invisible.
I wonder what Herb Mitgang thinks of that?