Google’s Engineering Director Shares Google’s Vision for the Future

Books to be stored in Google “cloud,” so any bookstore can sell a “Google edition”

Last night, in an event that slipped by relatively unnoticed compared to the usual media spotlight on Google happenings, Google Books Engineering Director Dan Clancy spoke at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., of Google’s vision for the future of bookselling.

MediaBistro’s Daily BayNewser Feed covered the event and provides a transcript of Clancy’s comments, which outline three main concepts in Google’s vision:

  • book content stored in a “cloud” (on Google’s servers);
  • a partnership program with retailers, so consumers can buy any book at any store location; and
  • digital book content that is available to any device, whether a personal computer, an e-reading device, a mobile phone, etc.

“People look at the settlement [with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers] and think that that is Google’s vision for what the future looks like for books,” said Clancy. “And, in fact, the settlement is what we figured out for these predominantly out-of-print books, so it’s more about the past. And in fact we’ve done a lot of thinking about what is the role we want to play going forward in a digital book world, for new books.”

Part of Google’s vision, he noted, is that the digital content for any book a consumer purchases would be stored on that consumer’s “cloud library” (on Google’s servers) indefinitely, enabling him to access that same content, at any time now or in the future, on any digital device as well.

This aspect of Google’s vision seems to address many publishers’ goal for the ideal digital rights management system—that consumers could buy a book (essentially buying the rights to access the digital content of the book) and access that content on any and all devices they want (from their mobile phone to their laptop to their e-reader) as well as print the book, if they want, etc.

But doesn’t it also place Google smack in between publishers and consumers? Many have voiced concerns over this being the case with Amazon, believing that enabling one company to monopolize the position between publishers and consumers would give that one company too much control of content (pricing, etc.

Print-on-demand and book-at-a-time technology, such as the Espresso Book Machine and the InstaBook Maker, may enable this vision for the future to become a reality sooner rather than later. Its implementation would likely reshape the traditional book distribution model entirely, making inventory virtually obsolete, as well as retailer returns, a financially-draining problem which publishers have been increasingly focused on solving.

You can view the transcript of Clancy’s speech here.

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  • http://ErikSherman Erik Sherman

    Interestingly, Amazon has already applied for a patent on a scheme that sounds exactly like this:

  • http://carolynhoward-johnson carolyn howard-johnson

    So where does that leave people who want a traditional hardcover or paperback? If Google plans to service them, too, I see this as a double danger.<br />
    Having said that, on some levels it seems to me that Amazon has been taking better care of its end customer better than bookstores have for a long time now. Just try to go special order a digitally published book at even an idnependent bookstore and watch the hoops they make that "customer who is always right" jump through.<br />
    Best,<br />
    Carolyn<br />
    Author: The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won’t

  • http://KrisIsaacson Kris Isaacson

    The major concern I have is that an end-user never truly "owns" the item. It is stored on Google’s servers and the user is completely dependent on accessing the Google server. If I pay for something, I want to own it, not just rent it in cyberspace. <br />
    <br />
    The end-user and the publisher both become overly dependent on what Google is doing with the files, where, when, and how they are distributed. Talk about the ultimate lock-in deal. <br />
    <br />
    I am very hesitant about this scheme.

  • http://DanZee DanZee

    Google would use digital publishing for people who want a hardcover or paperback. That’s what the article meant by coming up with a product a bookstore could sell. <br />
    <br />
    If I were a publisher, I would be worried. Google could cut out the publisher, and it has the money and power to put a digital printer in every bookstore in the country so you could have the book in your hands instantly, whereas Amazon ships you the book a week or two later.<br />
    <br />
    It would only be a matter of time when Google would start to act as a publisher of new books. Stephen King, for example, could sell his books through Google, and Google could easily market his books just by running a blurb on its homepage.

  • http://JimHartley Jim Hartley

    If I buy a book, I don’t want it stored on Google’s "cloud". I want it printed and sitting on my bookshelf, or else stored on **MY** computer. If I want to access it from somewhere else, let **ME** wory about moving it around. I don’t want my books doing a "1984" on me!

  • http://MihaiPaunescu Mihai Paunescu

    If you see that just as another channel to distribute your books the news does not sound that bad. What you would prefer … Amazon doing everything and some more or a Amazon, Google and Sony and some others in a war to give you as publisher or customer the best offer.<br />
    And by the way … I don’t think that anybody will stop you to host your files locally. Just that in the long run that might be the least secure solution. Sounds strange but it will happen some day.