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GUEST BLOGGER: What Google Books Can Mean For You

February 27th, 2010

Lewis Levenberg, a graduate student in Georgetown’s Communication, Culture and Technology program, works with Booklab from time time, giving us fresh ideas for using the internet and various social media to promote authors and books.  I invited him to guest-post some of his thoughts about digital books online:

What Google Books Can Mean For You

A lot of confusion and controversy surrounds the ongoing saga of the Author’s Guild and Association of American Publishers‘  legal action against Google. Since 2005, these two book-world powers have been locked in protracted argument with the search giant’s books division over copyright and payment issues. This complex, long-term negotiation seems to be drawing to a close, with Google honing in on the rights to expand what they hope will become the largest-ever “digital library.” However, the fact that this vast database of scanned texts is well on its way to becoming the primary reading and retail source for books on the web does NOT mean that authors are left high and dry, only to watch as their work becomes available to view (at least in part) online.

For example, while last fall saw the deadline for Authors Guild members to opt-out of the settlement, and thereby exclude their work from joining Google’s database, the deadline for members to claim cash payments on scanned books and inserts does not fall until 31 March, 2011. If you are a member of the Authors Guild, visit this site, and ensure your compensation for previously-published works. Even if you are not a member of the Guild, take a look at some of these resources to learn more about this landmark case:(1) (2) (3) (4)

Beyond understanding that basic information, what can authors do in the face of such a massive shift in the book world? My advice – to embrace and support the overall movement towards digital archiving and writing – stems from my experience as an aspiring writer, a technologically optimistic late adopter, and a digital native. I would argue that writers need to recognize the possibilities for them to benefit from the rise of digital texts. Embrace technological changes, and try to think in terms of the unique ways of writing that digital media make possible, beyond the simple scanning of already printed books, or the release of an e-book that mirrors its printed predecessor.

As an author online, you are not bound to the bindings of a codex. Instead, the Web offers you the opportunity to experiment with wikis (collaborative pages edited by more than one writer, often at the same time), blogs (web-logs, like this one, which can serve as journals or ongoing texts in themselves), and web pages. The most important recognition of a shift to digital writing is that your words enter a conversation.

You are no longer writing a lonely masterpiece, committed to a material page on a bookstore or library shelf. Your audience online is more interactive than any engagement with a printed work could allow. To that end, you might start entering this conversation by finding a community online, with whom you can discuss your topics of interest, the practice of writing itself, or the strange and wonderful cyberspace in which you find yourself, even now, reading this. Above all, do not shrink from new media. As an author at this moment of change, you have the opportunity to explore new forms of narrative, scholarship, fiction, poetics, and discourse. You can even begin now, by commenting on this post.

New Media Literacies

New Media Literacies

(lewis levenberg is an MA Candidate in Communication, Culture, and Technology at Georgetown University. The views and opinions expressed herein are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of OSLP/Booklab, or Georgetown University.)


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