By Georgina Prodhan
German publishers, keen to defend their copyrights as Internet search
engines seek to put the world's literature online, aim to set up their
own web-based database allowing readers to browse, borrow or buy
Search engine Google has angered publishers with proposals to scan
copyrighted works without permission to make them searchable online.
Critics fear the digital repository of books it would build up would
give it a monopoly on culture.
The German association of book publishers is planning to build a
network by next year that will allow the full texts of their books to
be searched online by search engines but will not hand the texts over
to these companies.
Google currently has agreements with publishers whereby it scans their
books to allow readers to search the full texts online. The search
results display only limited extracts.
In the longer term, the German association wants to build its own
search engine to offer services which could rival those offered by
Google, Yahoo or Lycos, and even offer readers the chance to borrow
"We don't want Google to hold the texts in its servers; we want the
publishers to keep them," Matthias Ulmer, who is leading the project,
told Reuters in an interview at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair.
Ulmer believes the German project will create the first nationwide
network of its kind.
In the German model, publishers would scan their books into their own
servers. The publishers' association would build a network that would
allow Google or other companies to search those servers without being
able to see their full content.
Ulmer said the association was talking to various search engines and
he was confident of reaching a deal with Google.
Ulmer said publishers should learn lessons from the music industry,
where revenues have plunged in recent years, partly due to people
downloading music from the Internet for free. "We mustn't make the
same mistake and live in the past," he said.
But, he said, it was hard to convince publishers of the importance of
the plan because many were not interested in online projects. "They
like the feel, the smell, of books and paper," he said.
However, he said he already had around 100 publishers on board for his
project, the initial stage of which should be up and running by April,
including around half of the top 100 publishing houses which make up
the vast majority of book sales.
He estimated it would cost each publisher around 3,000 euros per year
for the server, plus 10 euros for each title in its backlist.
Ulmer admitted there would always be a danger of hackers accessing
whole books online, but said the problem of copyright was centuries
old, and called for a legal framework to redress any fallout from
"We need a constitution, we need rules, but we don't need a wall," he
said. "Even Goethe got angry that people copied his books," he added.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new