Google Books, a program that’s been controversial in the US, has reportedly penned a deal with four publishing houses in China. Rival Baidu has deals with Chinese libraries instead; its program has access to 15 million books, the largest online collection of Chinese books in the world.
Working with libraries is the approach Google came under fire for in the US when publishers said their copyrighted materiel was being included in the program without their permission. The search company took an opt-out approach in the US. It’s notable that Windows Live Book Search has an opt-in program for publishers and Google appears to be following its lead when formulating its China strategy. Google Book Search China will give readers acccess to excerpts from books and require payment to read the full works.
Though book search has not inspired a whole lot of interest in the US, China’s long literary tradition may make this part of search more important there. I don’t know how things work in China, but it seems that partnering with libraries instead of publishers would be the best way to access thousands of years worth of books. Given all the lawsuits against US companies lately for failing to respect intellectual property in other countries, perhaps Google is taking a safe approach in China.