Monday, March 30, 2009

Pay-Per-View vs. Free Articles and Books

Many newspapers and magazines now ask for payment in return for archived articles. If asked to divulge credit card information thrice in fifteen minutes, the answer is usually "no" and it's on to another site.

It's not just the two dollar fee (though that's annoying), it's the risk of giving away a credit card number, even to a "virus-protected site" that bothers and slows any surfer, as well as the time it takes to give a number to three sites in said fifteen minutes.

Those sites with articles one would half-heartedly like to read don't win; the sites aren't read (at least by one person) and the reader doesn't learn. It's a lost expense of time and money (and card information) for the reader if the article isn't read.

Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Libraries claims that since many elite scientific journals now charge high prices (say, $180,000 for a year's subscription to a molecular biology journal), the Google book-scan project "could go horribly sour" if charges are made. He fears Google, or the Project, would start charging higher and higher rates to see its books. Many say it could become the world's largest digitized bookstore.

Pay-per-view is not the same as free. It's good, but it doesn't go far enough. It's not free. And having free information is as good as we can get it in this life.

Being able to continue to get royalties for out-of-print books sounds good for authors, but the book project could also signal a power shift away from copyright as information in general is shifted online.

Google says the books it digitizes are out-of-print "for a reason". That reason would be they aren't popular. But specialized information doesn't revolve around popularity.

Does digitizing an out-of-print book hurt an author's income, or does it preserve a book? Please leave a comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment