It happened to the music industry. The business model was ripe for reform, but the industry players didn’t want to change. So, the radicals changed it anyways, going digital and online, and the players still won’t let go.
The book publishing industry held on as long as they could, but digitization and online access is here. Google is the radical in this case. The issue is the same as it was/is in music: the industry is using copyrights and copyright holders as its lifejacket - they have to stay afloat somehow, and the only things in the industry with actual longevity are the legal rights attaching to the product.
In an article this morning, the New York Times highlights the clash between a business model ripe for change and an international legal regime that isn’t ready to support the movement. Copyright law has made an attempt at creating international standards for years, but the United States and Europe haven’t come to terms on a few key issues standing in the way of advancement such as that which Google proposes. A satisfactory settlement presented to a US District Court judge is all Google may need to provide digital access to books still under copyright but “out of print” in the United States. Although it may not be required to, as a result of lobbying by European publishing associations and other online competition advocacy groups, Google may offer a European seat on the board of its proposed “book rights registry”, and also may prevent access to books copyrighted in Europe without consent by appropriate publishers.
These offerings may look good in they eyes of Mr. Hart-Scott-Rodino . . .
I’ll keep you updated on this. The first hearing is scheduled for October 7.