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11/22/2006
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Google's Book Search Gets Better, Or Worse

Google has introduced several new enhancements, including the ability to zoom in on text and images and scroll up and down to see a new page.

Google's Book Search just got better or worse, depending on your views on copyrights.

Google on Tuesday introduced several new enhancements to its Book Search service to improve the user experience.

Book Search now includes the ability to zoom in on text and images. Online books now no longer need to be reloaded to see a new page; each page can now be viewed by scrolling up or down. Scrolling itself has been improved and can now be done using browser scroll bars, mouse wheels, or the hand icon to click and drag pages. There are other user interface improvements as well.

Several prominent libraries have partnered with Google in its effort to scan books and make them searchable, including the academic libraries at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and the University of Michigan, as well as the New York Public Library.

Google's Library Project was challenged in court last year when The Authors Guild and The Association of American Publishers announced separate lawsuits charging Google with massive copyright infringement. Litigation in those cases is ongoing.

"This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law," said Authors Guild president Nick Taylor in a statement announcing his organization's lawsuit. "It's not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied."

Despite the disapproval of these publishing industry groups, many authors and legal scholars support what Google is doing.

"As a writer, my biggest worry is that no one ever happens upon my books unless they go to a bookstore -- used to be that writers could rely on grocery stores and drugstores and so on, but no more," explains Cory Doctorow, an author, blogger, and copyright reform activist, on a Web page assembled by Google to showcase support for its position. "When books are visible in search-results, they get an equal footing with Web pages and other new media. If we have hope as authors in the digital age, it's in projects like Google Book Search."

"Copyright law is supposed to ensure that authors and publishers have an incentive to create new work, not stop people from finding out that the work exists," Google argues on its Web site. "By helping people find books, we believe we can increase the incentive to publish them. After all, if a book isn't discovered, it won't be bought."

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