So is O’Reilly really comfortable with people being able to read so much for free? How about those books with short sections that slip past the cut-off filters–and end up entirely readable through Google Book Search? I still don’t know what’s on the mind of publisher Tim O’Reilly, shown here, but if you go by email from my friend Andy Oram, this issue could be far from settled. Andy, a veteran O’Reilly editor, emphasizes that he is just “speculating.” But he did give me permission to quote him by name:
Thanks for pointing me to this. An editor here also caught it pretty early. I think the comments added to the end by readers are very good and lay out the issues.
I don’t know the details of thie Google feature, and I assumed that when you do a search you see only a couple lines before and after your search term. The poster found he could read a full two pages. If we can have control over the granularity of the material displayed, we should definitely reduce the amount displayed per search.
The issue raises the interesting question once again of the relation between technology and fair use. Here, we might be able to make a positive change. A lot of fair-use advocates, as you know, decry the DRM policies of large content vendors because DRM effectively overrides fair use. But here, perhaps we could say, “OK, you can read two pages of DNS & BIND, but only five lines of Google Hacks.” That would match technology to what we consider fair use (although it still puts us in control).
As the [TeleBlog] commenters said, the trick is not a new one, and it merely trades off convenience for money.
In a second note, Andy writes:
…It’s fine to quote me–in fact, you can put my name in. So long as readers see that I’m speculating, not stating O’Reilly policy or suggesting a policy.
Also, it would be interesting to point out the parallel between the kind of granular control I suggest (5 lines, etc.) and the control imposed by DRM.
Would I rather that that publishers not worry about piracy, and that books be completely free of controls? You bet! In fact, I see today’s DRM for the most part as a customer repellant, not an attractive feature, and I’m confident Andy agrees. But if Net folks en masse do grow acustomed to ripping off even community-minded publishers in a major way, then our side will lose to the hardcore copyright zealots and protection maniacs. Perhaps this is why so far Slashdot apparently hasn’t picked up what should be a natural item.
If O’Reilly hadn’t given so much back to the Net through its constant nuturing of new technologies, I might very well feel otherwise. But for now you’ll have to go elsewhere to get the how-to.