image153[1] In a pattern familiar to anyone who has watched the repeated claims by the content industry that some new copyright violation is going to “kill” their business, a study on the economic impact of Google Book Search shows that having a searchable catalog of books has apparently helped publishers a lot more than it has hurt.

Mike Masnick at Techdirt posts a summary of the study, which shows that affected publishers’ profits grew faster on average in the years after the project than the years before. Publishers who did not opt out of the publishing partner agreement also saw large increases in revenues and profits.

This puts me in mind of the VCR, which thirty years ago Jack Valenti famously compared to the Boston Strangler, but subsequently formed the basis for an entirely new business sector in Hollywood that accounts for significantly more revenue than theatrical showings today. Who knows what Google Books will have made of the publishing industry thirty years from now?


  1. *I* could have told them this. Google Books is a discovery tool. People use it to discover books that relate to their favorite subjects, and sometimes go to bookstores and *purchase* copies of those books, because discovery creates desire. Duh. And speaking of the VCR: It’s well known that library lending of VHS tapes — which caused rental companies to flip out — actually improved rental business because libraries could afford so few copies of the most popular films, and people wanted instant gratification. If the library’s copy was checked out, people went to the video store and rented instead.

    Amazon ought to take a page out of this book and a. enable library lending of Kindle editions, and b. become the vendor of those lendable Kindle titles — at least somewhere along the supply chain.

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