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Re: Authors, publishers, settle suit with Google

The stats that you ask for from libraries are in the process of 
being created, but not by libraries, Joe. Google has stats that 
are astounding reflecting the difference in access and use rates 
for non-commercially valuable (my shorthand for your 
determination that a publisher doesn't see the point of making a 
book available) books that on our library shelves might have sat 
without being checked out for years, even decades...

Times are changing.

Georgia Harper

On 11/6/08 8:15 PM, "Joseph J. Esposito" <espositoj@gmail.com> wrote:

Georgia Harper is definitely correct in describing the travails
of clearing rights for orphan works.  It's a nightmare.  But the
sarcasm of "little things like that" is perhaps better expressed
as "matters that are not terribly important."

Orphan works are, for the most part, orphans for a reason; books
go out of print for a reason.  If there was a large demand for
these titles, publishers would have researched the rights
situation.  I know because I have done this.  Many publishers
have advisory boards whose role is to find "lost" books.  Take a
look at the impressive catalogues at Dover Publications and the
growing book program at "The New York Review of Books." Many
years ago, when I was working in the bowels of what is now Pengun
Books (it was called NAL back then), former teachers of mine
would write me to recommend titles.  I recall requests for
"Flatland", "Three Men in a Boat," and Jane Austen's juvenalia.
(These all turned out to be P.D.)  I brought George Gissing's
"The Odd Women" back into print in order to prove to a young
woman that I was not the sexist pig she thought I was.  I lost.

The reason that these matters are not terribly important is that
readers, not greedy publishers, have demonstrated that orphan
titles are not terribly important.  If libraries have strong
circulation figures for books that are out of print, heavens!,
tell somebody.  But for books that rarely circulate or have not
circulated in some time, the incentives for researching copyright
status are tiny.

What troubles me about many mass digitization projects is that
they are indeed "mass."  They are driven largely by IT and legal
concerns and do not partake of the culturally demanding, and
woefully inefficient, tasks of creation, selection, and curation,
performed by authors, publishers, and librarians.  One could
imagine a different kind of digitization project whose aim was to
make what is already in demand more useful.  I believe this is,
for the most part (yes, there are exceptions), a better course
than to proceed indiscriminately.  It is indiscriminate activity
that makes the "little things" of copyright clearance burdensome.
It is time to reawaken to the old-fashioned virtue of exercising

Joe Esposito