Privacy Concerns and Google Books

Google has been working on a huge project to scan millions of library books and put them online. It would be the world’s greatest virtual library.  However, a concern of many with regard to this enormous project is privacy. 

In a campaign organized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, many have signed on to pressure Google into offering greater privacy guarantees for its readers.  Authors who have signed on include Jonathan Lethem, Cory Doctorow, and Michael Chabon.

Google knows which books you search for, which books you browse through and how long you spend on each page.  This is the same kind of information that is produced when you surf the Web.

The EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California want Google to keep reader data for less time than normal Web searches.

Google says it shares their concern about readers’ privacy and does not disclose readers’ personal information except in some narrow circumstances like emergencies and search warrants.  There may also be technical limits to how much anonymity the company can offer readers. Google’s tentative settlement of a copyright dispute allows for readers to have free browsing rights to only 20 percent of a book. If Google is going to keep track of how much of a book a person has seen, it has to keep track of a person’s reading. And of course, when someone buys access to the full book, that will necessitate some form of identification.

Google says it’s trying to find ways to offer anonymity to readers. Google plans to sell “full access” subscriptions to institutions — colleges or libraries — and it says it will not ask for the identity of the individual students or library patrons who use the service.

I know how I will be using Google books in the future – through my public library! 

If you would like to listen to the story on npr.org that prompted this blog, please click here:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111797207.

Sony Launches Two New Readers

On August 4th, Sony launched two new e-book devices.

The Reader Pocket Edition weighs only  7.76 ounces, is designed to be the e-book for everyman or woman.  It comes in three colors: blue, rose, and silver.  The best part is the price – $199.  Compare this with the Reader Touch Edition, Sony’s earlier e-book device, and the Kindle from Amazon.

The Reader Touch Edition has a touch screen, clear navigation and finger or stylus enabled note taking.  The Touch Edition has adjustable font sizes, an onboard Oxford American English Dictionary, and memory slots for SD cards and Memory Sticks.  The price for the Reader Touch Edition is $299. This price is closer to the pricing we’ve seen for e-book devices in the past.

Sony also plans to reduce the price on all new releases and best sellers at its e-book store.  The price will be $9.99 each, down from $11.99. Sony will also offer access to Google’s public domain library.  Sony will have access to more than 1 million books for use on its e-book devices via a deal with Google announced last month.

I think the Reader Pocket Edition might be a good idea, even if you never bought a book.  Just the access to free books on Google’s public domain library and the portability might make it worth it.  Then again, why not read on your iPod or iTouch?  (See my article dated June 22, 2009 entitled “Do you Love Reading or Do You Love Books?”).

Are you going to buy one of these?  If so, why?  Leave a comment and let us know what you think!