Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Books Media Businesses Education Google The Internet Technology

U of Michigan and Amazon To Offer 400,000 OOP Books 160

Posted by timothy
from the had-no-idea-so-many-people-loved-object-oriented-pumas dept.
eldavojohn writes "Four hundred thousand rare, out of print books may soon be available for purchase ranging anywhere from $10 to $45 apiece. The article lists a rare Florence Nightingale book on Nursing which normally sells for thousands due to its rarity. The [University of Michigan] librarian, Mr. Courant said, 'The agreement enables us to increase access to public domain books and other publications that have been digitised. We are very excited to be offering this service as a new way to increase access to the rich collections of the university library.' The University of Michigan has a library where Google is scanning rare books and was the aim of heavy criticism. (Some of the Google-scanned books are to be sold on Amazon.) How the authors guild and publishers react to Amazon's Surge offering softcover reprints of out of print books remains to be seen."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

U of Michigan and Amazon To Offer 400,000 OOP Books

Comments Filter:
  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by vishbar (862440) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:26PM (#28799731)
    So how many books cover functional programming?
    • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:45PM (#28799985)
      Sorry, these all come from the non-fiction section.
    • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Funny)

      by tool462 (677306) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:10PM (#28800309)

      Only one, but the catch is you have to pass it your own 'print' function.

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:27PM (#28801181)

      At least 16, if you go back 3,000 to 4,000 years back (I think). Vedic Mathematics is actually a lot like functional programming. Also, in the 17th century, the term 'computer' used to refer to the human being performing the actual calculations (for calculating the trajectory of cannon balls for example).

      Variable collisions is actually quite problematic when you're doing mental math. That's what Vedic Math solves for you. It gives you all the algorithms necessary to do math in your head, so that you just have one single number to remember at a time (which is what makes the feat even possible in the first place).

      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jc42 (318812) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @10:21PM (#28802965) Homepage Journal

        Also, in the 17th century, the term 'computer' used to refer to the human being performing the actual calculations (for calculating the trajectory of cannon balls for example).

        That usage only died out recently. My wife likes to tell people that her first job title was "computer". This was around 1970, when she got a job working for a civil engineering firm, using their fancy new desktop calculators to do the math for surveying work. She actually only got out of that line of work in the mid 1980s, when the calculating was finally being moved over to those fancy new desktop computers. The use of "computer" as a job title had died out by 1980, though, as it had by then become widely known as the name of a kind of electronic device and was thus inappropriate to describe a human.

        Now she does computing work for medical organizations, which are finally being dragged kicking and screaming into the computer age. Her iMac is more powerful, and has more pixels on its screen, than any in use at her office. But it'll probably still be some years before your typical MD understands what can be done with those newfangled electronic gadgets.

  • by thewils (463314) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:26PM (#28799735) Journal

    I thought they were Object Oriented Programming books :( Had me going for a minute there...

    • Re:OOPs (Score:3, Funny)

      by CarpetShark (865376) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:50PM (#28800053)

      I thought they were Object Oriented Programming books

      That's why you need to read these books ;)

      Every one.

    • by Eudial (590661) on Friday July 24, 2009 @07:47AM (#28805417)

      My mind also went there. But then I thought, no way there are 400,000 books written on the subject. I mean, sure, it's big, but it's not THAT big.

  • And the Kindle? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dmomo (256005) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#28799783) Homepage

    We've been pushing to go from Paper to Digital. It's interesting that they're going in the opposite direction here. The article has no mention of the Kindle. I find it hard to believe that the Kindle doesn't play some big role in this. Perhaps they will offer these books for free on the Kindle to help push the device? Personally, I think they should be online and free.

    • by dmomo (256005) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:34PM (#28799829) Homepage

      I am curious about the right to copy a rare public-domain book. Let's say someone owns the only copy of a book. They do not allow anyone else to scan it. But, they do scan it themselves.

      Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that? Could they sue me for copying their scanned version? Suppose they ran it through some OCR. Then they changed the layout but not the text. Now could they use that as a basis from stopping me from copying it? It's their font/layout configuration after all.

      I suppose further, I could run their scanned work through my own OCR, and since the text itself is not copyrighted, I could then distribute the text.

      Sounds silly and convoluted, but this is the kind of argument we can expect to see as information becomes easy to control and manipulate. And as more and more public domain items come into the light, there will be more and more "stake holders" trying to protect their cash cows.

      • by Hungus (585181) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:45PM (#28799989) Journal

        I am curious about the right to copy a rare public-domain book. Let's say someone owns the only copy of a book. They do not allow anyone else to scan it. But, they do scan it themselves.

        Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

        yes

        Could they sue me for copying their scanned version?

        Yes

        Suppose they ran it through some OCR. Then they changed the layout but not the text. Now could they use that as a basis from stopping me from copying it? It's their font/layout configuration after all.

        Yes

        I suppose further, I could run their scanned work through my own OCR, and since the text itself is not copyrighted, I could then distribute the text.

        no because you used their work without permission An example of this is taking a photo of a work in the public domain. If it is your photo you can reproduce it and use it all you want. If it is someone else's photo you are SOL if you do not have rights to work with their photo.

        Sounds silly and convoluted, but this is the kind of argument we can expect to see as information becomes easy to control and manipulate. And as more and more public domain items come into the light, there will be more and more "stake holders" trying to protect their cash cows.

        you could however do it anyways and then they would have to prove that you used their copies to create your work. the problem is if it is a one of a kind and they can show you had access to it once again you are SOL.

        • by CarpetShark (865376) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:53PM (#28800099)

          Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

          yes

          Bull. Scanning is only one half of the (modern) photocopying process. So if I'm "creative" enough to think of photocopying your book, I own the photocopy, and can sell it as a new work?

          • by Hungus (585181) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:14PM (#28800357) Journal

            Only if the original subject is in the public domain otherwise it is considered derivative. I was involved a few years ago with a rather stupid lawsuit where a publisher got ahold of a database containing tens of thousands of scanned pages of documents well into the public domain. (original documents were from the 17th and 18th century) They argued that they could publish the documents as they were in the public domain. The Owner of the scans argued that they were reproducing copyrighted work. The courts agreed with the owners of the original scans.

            • Juris-whose-diction? (Score:3, Informative)

              by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:42PM (#28801329) Homepage Journal

              I was involved a few years ago with a rather stupid lawsuit where a publisher got ahold of a database containing tens of thousands of scanned pages of documents well into the public domain. (original documents were from the 17th and 18th century) They argued that they could publish the documents as they were in the public domain. The Owner of the scans argued that they were reproducing copyrighted work. The courts agreed with the owners of the original scans.

              The United States has a 1991 Supreme Court case to the contrary: Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service [wikipedia.org]. Which country are you talking about?

              • by Hungus (585181) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:00PM (#28801501) Journal

                Try reading the case all the way through and commenting again.
                for example:
                For example, a recipe is a process, and not copyrightable, but the words used to describe it are; see Publications International v Meredith Corp. (1996).[2] Therefore, you can rewrite a recipe in your own words and publish it without infringing copyrights. But if you rewrote every recipe from a particular cookbook, you might still be found to have infringed the author's copyright in the choice of recipes and their "coordination" and "presentation", even if you used different words, though the West decisions below suggest that this is unlikely unless there is some significant creativity in the presentation.

        • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:00PM (#28800165)

          Oh, I disagree!

          They own the scan. They made it. But, I disagree that the scan is copywritable. It is not an original artistic work. It might be if it was a subsequently "cleaned up" version of the original, that was being re-released. Same, if it was OCR'd, but the issue would hinge on whether the OCRing was "merely transformative". Then, it would not be copyrightable.

          Of course, if you got their "only" scan in an illegal manner, and made copies of that, you might have committed the crime of theft, regrdless of copyright infringement. You might not have violated copyright, but you would have violated a proprty right -- taking without permission.

          Finally, in this case, I don't think it's the content that has value, but rather the manuscript, who's value is not diminished (and might, in fact be enhanced, if it's content proved popular). We can all get copies of Shakespeare's works, or a print of the Mona Lisa, and that does not diminish the value of an original manuscript, does it?

          • by Hungus (585181) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:10PM (#28800305) Journal

            You may disagree all you want to but you would still be wrong. I was involved in a lawsuit 3 years ago that says otherwise. Scans are considered original works and are copywritable.

            • Then the courts fucked up and you should have appealed. Photographs of public domain paintings are also in the public domain [directorym.com] due to the work not being transformative, only technical.
              • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:34PM (#28800599)

                Well, I used the wrong word. Perhaps I should have used "technical" instead of transformative, as that is what I meant.

                For example, it would be abusrd to argue that I can buy a CD, make a cassette copy, and sell the cassettes under my copyright because it does not impinge the copyright holder from selling CDs. (It does, of course, affect their ability to exploit the nature of the work, the performance, in cassette format, and may detract from CD sales as well.)

                In this case, providing the work for scanning should be done uner EULA by the owner of the work. Just because it is in the public domain, does not mean the public has a free right to it, merely that they are free to do with it what they will if they freely obtain it. And her, one could argue that, yes, the public has a right to the content, but not the packaging, in a reverse of digital music EULAs.

                • Just because it is in the public domain, does not mean the public has a free right to it

                  Actually, that's exactly what it means. I don't care who does the packaging of a public domain work... that does not confer the copyright, and therefore control of COPYING that, to them. A CD is a completely different issue... it's still under copyright. And music performance is transformative... if it's a new performance of old work, it has a new copyright. But Edison's "Watson, come here, I need you" is not under copyright, and anyone who has a recording cannot legally do anything to prevent copying of it if they let anyone else have it. The court ruling was that the "packaging" was something that didn't change the actual work enough to make it newly copyrightable.

            • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @08:31PM (#28802319) Homepage

              You may disagree all you want to but you would still be wrong. I was involved in a lawsuit 3 years ago that says otherwise. Scans are considered original works and are copywritable.

              You say here [slashdot.org] the court ruled that the works in question constituted a copyrighted collection. That doesn't mean the individual scans are protected by copyright, but that the collection itself is so protected. From your own description of the case, your assertion that copying the scans or text of public domain works constitutes copyright infringement remains altogether unsupported.

          • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:19PM (#28800419)

            I know it's bad form to follow up one's own post, but I have additional thoughts.

            The issue of copyright hinges on making an artistic contribution when involved in a transformative work -- the idea being that the effort deserves reward and protection in order to encourage that such efforts take place.

            It can be argued that a simple scan (as I did above) is merely transformative, not artistic, and therefore not copyrightable.

            But, having made the scan, and releasing copies of it, someone else might undertake to improve the quality of it. Had the original scan not been made, this could not happen, and therefore doing so added to publicly available knowledge. Perhaps it took great effort (and, maybe expense), to obtain the original work so that it might be scanned in the first place, or great care (and again, expense) to scan it non-destructively -- no one would dare just stick an original copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in a Xerox® machine now, would they?

            The question then becomes, "Is that worthy of protection, and promotion, and if so, what kind?"

            It boils down to "Hay! He (or she) could not have done that valuable thing, if I didn't do this difficult thing, so I should be compensated if he (or she) profits;" sort of a "contingent copyright" if you will.

            I know GPL authors would take exception if their code was used, modified, in a commercial product, without the modifications made free. The GPL solution is that no one may profit (merely) from the code itself. That said, I'm sure some GPL authors have sour grapes if their code becomes an enabler for a widely popular piece of hardware, in which they do not share in the profits it produces. Hence, we see (often amateur) "non-commercial" licenses: you can use this, but only if not for profit. Otherwise, let's strike a deal.

            I don't think, in this case, a new notion of a contingent copyright makes sense: it isn't necesasry. But I do thing a license on otherwise non-copywritable works does. EULAs, in principle, are not bad things, just because the historic pattern has been for them to be (a) draconian, and (b) shrinkwrapped (which, IMHO, makes them unenforceable, but IANAL).

            • by SETIGuy (33768) on Friday July 24, 2009 @03:31PM (#28811133) Homepage

              I don't think, in this case, a new notion of a contingent copyright makes sense: it isn't necesasry. But I do thing a license on otherwise non-copywritable works does. EULAs, in principle, are not bad things, just because the historic pattern has been for them to be (a) draconian, and (b) shrinkwrapped (which, IMHO, makes them unenforceable, but IANAL).

              Such a license is only enforcable on the person who agreed to it. So A buys the book, agrees to the license, and loans it to B or gives it to B as a gift. B is under no obligation to agree to the license. B doesn't even have to read the license, unless the book can't be opened without agreeing to it. That would be a physically difficult mechanism to build.

          • by Tetsujin (103070) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:00PM (#28800867) Homepage Journal

            Oh, I disagree!

            They own the scan. They made it. But, I disagree that the scan is copywritable.

            Gonna take a moment to smack you up-side the head.

            *smack*

            To describe something as "copywritable" is somewhat meaningless, of course - but to the extent it has any meaning at all, it would have the opposite meaning of copyright... Something "copywritable" would, presumably, be something you can copy. "Copyright" means that someone controls the right to copy something...

        • Juris-whose-diction? (Score:4, Informative)

          by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:37PM (#28801277) Homepage Journal

          Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

          yes

          Under what law in what jurisdiction? In the United States, Bridgeman v. Corel [wikipedia.org] excludes photocopies of an uncopyrighted work from copyright because they lack originality.

        • by omb (759389) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @09:38PM (#28802745)
          No, it would be OK, but you forgot about The __OTIGINALITY__ test so your whole post is __CRAP__, read the law before posting!
        • by SETIGuy (33768) on Friday July 24, 2009 @02:10PM (#28809965) Homepage

          I am curious about the right to copy a rare public-domain book. Let's say someone owns the only copy of a book. They do not allow anyone else to scan it. But, they do scan it themselves.

          Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

          yes

          They can put a copyright on the scanned version, but that doesn't mean that the copyright is valid. Is there any case law that says scanning a book is a creative process worthy of copyright protection?

          Could they sue me for copying their scanned version?

          Yes

          They can sue, but they might lose, which would prove that the copyright is invalid.

          Suppose they ran it through some OCR. Then they changed the layout but not the text. Now could they use that as a basis from stopping me from copying it? It's their font/layout configuration after all.

          Yes

          I suppose further, I could run their scanned work through my own OCR, and since the text itself is not copyrighted, I could then distribute the text.

          no because you used their work without permission An example of this is taking a photo of a work in the public domain. If it is your photo you can reproduce it and use it all you want. If it is someone else's photo you are SOL if you do not have rights to work with their photo.

          I highly doubt that. They do not own a copyright on the textual content of the work. How you obtain that textual content is irrelevant to whether you can use it. In your example (a picture of a public domain work) the picture is not and does not contain the public domain work. In the case of a scan, it does, in fact contain all of the public domain work. For example, you can't change the frame on the Mona Lisa and claim that nobody can take a picture of it because you own copyright on the frame/picture combination. You might, however, be able to require that people remove the frame from any pictures they take of it.

          Sounds silly and convoluted, but this is the kind of argument we can expect to see as information becomes easy to control and manipulate. And as more and more public domain items come into the light, there will be more and more "stake holders" trying to protect their cash cows.

          you could however do it anyways and then they would have to prove that you used their copies to create your work. the problem is if it is a one of a kind and they can show you had access to it once again you are SOL.

      • by xouumalperxe (815707) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:54PM (#28800107)

        IANAL, etc etc.

        From what I understand, you're correct: you'd at most own copyright for the scan, not the text. So if I were to buy thte OCRed book off you, I'd be legally entitled to copy it word for word, and do whatever. Problem is, AFAIK you need to do something creative to actually qualify for copyright. So scanning the text doesn't give you copyright over the scans, but if you were to typeset the text, you'd have copyright over the layout itself, but not the text.

        I wonder how this would work with sound recordings, though. One could theoretically keep the master tapes safely stored, and issue new, slightly tweaked edits every time the edit in the market is about to run out of copyright time. Of course, anybody who still has the old media has a public domain copy, but you're never issuing anything that's already in the public domain yourself.

      • by Jurily (900488) <[jurily] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:09PM (#28800293)

        Sounds silly and convoluted, but this is the kind of argument we can expect to see as information becomes easy to control and manipulate.

        No, this is what you get for treating information as property. Maybe the law needs to get in sync with reality once in a while.

        You can go on and on about how it costs money to create information in whatever form, but as long as it's free to replicate it (since the devices needed are common household items now), you need a different business model other than selling it. I'm generalizing here because it doesn't just apply to literature. Think software, music, movies, etc. That's the beauty of computers: all information can be represented as a sequence of bits, and as such, easily copied and modified. Add in the fact that most people don't have a moral problem with copying, and you have laws that are impossible to uphold without a police state.

        Oh, and let's not go into the finer points, like what happens when I write a program, and the compiler output played as audio happens to be a copyrighted song.

      • by nzodd (836093) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:16PM (#28800375)
        IANAL, but I suspect they would not own copyright on a scan of a public domain work, at least not in the U.S., because of the precedent set down in Bridgeman v. Corel. Corel distributed non-original photographs taken by Bridgeman Art of public domain art works, and Bridgeman sued them, claiming they owned the copyright to those images. According to the decision, because the photographs were slavish copies of public domain works, the photographs themselves had no original element and thus couldn't be copyrighted. as Wikipedia puts it: "Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), was a decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which ruled that exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright because the copies lack originality. Even if accurate reproductions require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, the key element for copyrightability under U.S. law is that copyrighted material must show sufficient originality."
      • It depends on the jurisdiction. Most places require some artistry, creativity, creation to go into a production of something for it to qualify for protection, and a technical reproduction in the form of a full-frame scan of a 2D-document is unlikely to fullfill that criteria.

        It requires *expertise* and it is a lot of *work* to make it, but you're not creatively creating, infact you're doing your darnest to keep the work as close to the original as possible. (i.e to *AVOID* significantly adding or subtracting from the original work)

        Wikipedias position, for example, is that full-frame head-on technical reproductions of 2D works in the public domain are ineligible for copyright, and can freely be uploaded. Offcourse in the end the opinion of judges is what counts, but Wikipedia *has* sought competent legal advice for this position.

      • by castironpigeon (1056188) on Friday July 24, 2009 @08:14AM (#28805535)
        In Soviet America, public domain copyrights YOU!
      • by skeeto (1138903) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:58AM (#28806443)

        This is exactly what happened with the National Portrait Gallery in the UK. They have old paintings, and don't allow any photography whatsoever in the museum. They made their own careful, high-res photography copies and put them on their website claiming copyright. Wikipedia used the images as public domain. The NPG wasn't happy about this and started hassling Wikipedia and its users [slashdot.org].

        The thing is, Wikipedia is right: copies of public domain works are in the public domain in the US, which the NPG acknowledges too. It's probably public domain in the UK too, but this hasn't been sorted out yet. Their argument, instead, is that the user circumvented some alleged copy restriction system they put in place, which is a DMCA issue.

        So, in the US at least, those scans of the books would not be under and kind of copyright, as there was no creative input. Hard work doesn't mean copyright. I'm no lawyer, but I bet the text of the OCR probably wouldn't be under copyright either.

        Despite all this, it doesn't mean the owner of the physical work won't harass you with copyfraud though, like NPG is doing.

        And as more and more public domain items come into the light, there will be more and more "stake holders" trying to protect their cash cows.

        If it comes to that, I bet either we see copyright laws change to increase it to the scope of copies of public domain works, or there will be draconian DRM over it so that making your own copies breaks the anti-circumvention parts of the DMCA.

    • Re:And the Kindle? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:34PM (#28799835)
      I think it's better that they are in Permanent Paper instead of Disappearing Digital [slashdot.org] format.
  • by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:33PM (#28799827)

    So Amazon is going to be so nice as to offer us the chance to PURCHASE what actually belongs in the public domain? Wow. I am impressed and excited.

    • by Duradin (1261418) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:49PM (#28800045)

      The Count of Monte Cristo is in the public domain but if I want a dead tree version of it I have to be able to find a dead tree version of it and then generally will need to purchase that dead tree version.

      Now finding a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo is rather easy. Imagine trying to find a copy of something that is technically in the public domain but the book itself is rare enough to effectively not exist anymore (and there are no electronic copies of it) and the market so small that no one would bother trying to republish it even if they had the book to work from. Print On Demand is a perfect solution to that problem. You don't have to keep stock of books that will rarely sell but yet you can make those books available to for purchase.

    • by david_thornley (598059) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:31PM (#28800553)

      If you go to Barnes & Noble, you'll find some racks of nicely bound inexpensive books, all public domain. You can buy these books, just as you can buy CD-ROMs with completely free Linux distributions on them.

      Alternatively, you can download the contents from Project Gutenberg or your favorite distro site, respectively. It's a matter of convenience.

      In this case, it's more difficult to get your own scans. However, if a lot of you get together, and one person buys the Amazon copy, you can get together and scan your own. You just have to remove any creative content added in addition to the original scan.

    • by omb (759389) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @09:16PM (#28802635)
      Sometimes the CRAP here is amazing:

      1. Google is scanning the books, which makes it much less likely they will be lost

      2. Someone, probably Google, will index all the books, so we can find them, IN PRINT or not.

      3. Amazon will print, on demand, at a very reasonable price,

      Please, dip-shit, tell me what is wrong with that, you clearly have not waited for an "inter-lending library lending system" to find a copy of a book you want to read. It took >3 years to get the UK copyright libraries to produce AE van Volgt and Smith's Lensmen books, because they were fiction and thus "not serious".

      Personally I can not wait for google to create a new "Library of Alexandria" within which we can download books for 0 or a micro-transaction fee.

      Publishers begin to understand this, and typically, want to stop it, tough luck.

      Finally I subscribe to a number of pay for view sites (eg LWN.NET) which offer excellent value. and I would certainly subscribe to a good book/indexing service, commercial or otherwise.
    • by b0bby (201198) on Friday July 24, 2009 @11:49AM (#28807955) Homepage

      From my understanding, the books are out of print, not necessarily out of copyright. If they are out of copyright, you might well be able to get a free copy from Project Gutenberg, but if you you want it neatly bound and printed, Amazon will send it to you. This is the case with Notes On Nursing - you can get it here: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12439 [gutenberg.org]. Maybe the U of Mich version is better edited, formatted, etc; there are lots of ways to improve on Project Gutenberg books. If they are merely out of print, I guess they will have some way for copyright holders to either get paid or be able to stop the printing.

  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:34PM (#28799833) Homepage Journal

    They can't sell reprints unless they are public domain. How many people who published works before 1929 are still alive?

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:38PM (#28799899) Journal

      They can't sell reprints unless they are public domain. How many people who published works before 1929 are still alive?

      Not all of these books are in the public domain. While I do not have a list of them, the article said only some of them are in the public domain. There are plenty of non-public domain books that are no longer in print and difficult if not impossible to get a hold of even if you have money to pay for them. That was why Google paid the Authors Guild and publishers $125 million (see the article I linked that is related to this story).

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:38PM (#28799887) Homepage

    A huge problem today is anything that is from the past and successful is viewed as valuable. New stuff? Not so much.

    Part of the problem is that there are actually few books today that are worth much. Authoring a book is hard. Authoring a good book is much, much harder and actually requires skill. So an accepted marketing technique is to reclaim something from the past that has quality and reissue it. Which is what is going on here. It is like a remake of a 1940s classic movie, only without the bad special effects that would be added. Imagine a remake of Casablanca with new digital special effects.

    I would certainly agree that it would be nice if these books were available for the Kindle at $1 or less. Yes, scanning and proofing is hard work. But it is nothing compared to actually writing a successful book.

  • by Kenshin (43036) <kenshin&lunarworks,ca> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:39PM (#28799911) Homepage

    Out of print? That probably doesn't mean out of copyright.

    Better hope no one torpedoes whatever you purchase, or you may awake one morning to your e-book gone and a feeble "Sorry!" note from Amazon in your inbox.

  • I'm going to be wickedly pissed if all my hard re-CATPCHA [recaptcha.net] work was all so they could sell a book.
  • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:48PM (#28800021) Journal
    You know, I really don't have a problem with this as long as Google doesn't mind if someone takes one of their books, copies it straight out of the book and distributes it also. Regardless if it's more expensive, less expensive, free, etc. Google needs to remember that they do not own this public domain information and they are only a intermediary making this information more available. If they're ok with playing that role then more power to them.

    If they ever lift a finger to say that someone "copied" their work though, I would love to donate to the lawsuit against them.
  • Already done (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:58PM (#28800147)

    This has already been done. There are several websites which do the same thing - reprint public domain content on the fly:

    http://bibliolife.com/ [bibliolife.com]
    http://www.kessinger.net/ [kessinger.net]
    http://www.publicdomainreprints.org [publicdomainreprints.org]

    Interesting enough, BiblioLife was founded by the same people who founded BookSurge.

  • by clarkn0va (807617) <apt.get@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:00PM (#28800159) Homepage
    I haven't RTA yet, are they saying how long until they take them back again? [slashdot.org]
  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:12PM (#28800337)

    and subsequently delete them.

  • DRM Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:12PM (#28800343)

    The law makes DRM-cracking illegal. Does that mean that publishers can slap DRM on a public domain book (lapsed copyright or otherwise), and thereby for all practical purposes extend the copyright?

    • by Nerdfest (867930) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:42PM (#28800693)
      Not a problem. Crack the DRM in a more reasonable country.
  • by ZackSchil (560462) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:16PM (#28800379)
    I suppose since Amazon and Google are taking the time to scan, clean up, edit, typeset, and republish these books, they should feel free to sell them like they'd sell it like any publisher can with other public domain works. The fact that the books are rare doesn't change the situation legally. If someone wanted to buy the restored Amazon/Google reprint of a rare public domain book, scan it, run it through OCR, remove the formatting, and give it away for free, they could. If someone else then took that text and printed it out into a book and sold it, they could do that too.
  • not a new thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:58PM (#28800845)
    Other companies have been in the facsimile/reprint business for a while. The best known (at least in the U.S.) is probably Dover Press, but there are others. What makes it interesting is that this is Amazon doing the publishing, meaning that there will be an order of magnitude more titles available than what places like Dover can manage.

    My partner has ordered a few facsimile reprints of 17th century theological and philosophical works from Kessinger Publishing, works she wasn't able to get anywhere else. They're just poor facsimiles, almost photocopies, of old works, but even then manage to work in a little incompetence. Their printing of Sir Kenelm Digby's Of Bodies and of Man's Soul to Discover the Immortality of Reasonable Souls has on its cover (and as the title on the Amazon page!) one of the best editorial screw-ups ever [amazon.com].
  • by jandersen (462034) on Friday July 24, 2009 @08:30AM (#28805633)

    All out of print books in the public domain should automatically be scanned and made available CHEAPLY for the public (and probably BY the public as well, ie. by the state); the price should only cover the actual cost of scanning and storing - and for printed version, the print costs.

    And, I think books in general should either be kept in print or go into the public domain after 5 years.

  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Friday July 24, 2009 @08:54AM (#28805779) Homepage

    I just recently picked up a 1906 edition of this book [archive.org] on Electricity and Magnetism. Having a scanned version available in no way diminishes the value of my hardback copy - in fact, it allows me to read passages that might otherwise be obscured by schmootz [wikipedia.org].

  • by Ankh (19084) on Friday July 24, 2009 @10:51AM (#28807075) Homepage

    The quality of scans from Google Books seems very low to me; much lower than I'd use on my own Web site, http://www.fromoldbooks.org/ [fromoldbooks.org] - it's not uncommon for pages to be missed, and in one 19th century mechanics textbook I was looking at, the low scan resolution meant that most of the line drawings and diagrams vanished entirely.

    It's obvious to me that the Google work will need to be done again by people who care about the content. Note, by the way, that most flat-bed scanners destroy the binding of books, although some people are now using e.g. a Canon 5D full-frame-sensor SLR camera instead. For illustrations, some simple mathematics (and experience) shows 600dpi to be an absolute minimum for a scan of an engraving, with fine steel engravings needing at least 1200dpi (I used 2400) in order to prevent the lines from being aliased into a blotchy gray. This is much higher than the Canon SLR gives, but Betterlight have a 500 megapixel backend to a medium-format professional camera that would give enough resolution for a good digital fac simile, and e.g. the University of Wisconsin uses that sort of equipment. But it's much slower and hence more costly, and the files are huge.

    Here's a fragment of text from a Google book I've been working with:

            ALLEN ^Anthony), an English lawyer and antiquaiy,
            was born at Great Hadbam in Hertfordshire, about the end
            of the seventeenth century, and was edu<?^ted at ffton;
            whence he went to King's college, Cambridge, and took
            his bachelor's degree in 1707, and his master's in 1711.
            He afterwards studied law, was ciiJI^d.to' the bar, and bjr
            the influence of Arthur OnsloW^ speaker of the house of
            commons, became a roaster in chancery. His reputation
            as a lawyer was inconsiderable, Jbiut he was Esteemed a good
            classical scholar, and a man of Wit: and -convivial habits.

    The version I have at http://words.fromoldbooks.org/Chalmers-Biography/a/allen-anthony.html [fromoldbooks.org] (I am still working on these) is based on scanning done at the University of Toronto, combined with four other digitisations, including two apparently independent ones by Google, both of the quality demonstrated here.

    It might turn out that it would have been less work to have scanned this 32-volume encyclopedia myself (I have a copy) and so the OCR with commercial software that works 1,000 times better than Google's, but, for reprints, the important thing is the quality of the scanned images, not the OCR - and there too, the Google scans are really sucky.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen

Working...