Google, Hachette ink accord on book scanning

By Reuters
Posted Nov. 17, 2010 at 10:47 a.m.

Google has signed an accord with France’s biggest book publisher Hachette Livre on the scanning and sale of out-of-print books, which grants the publisher wide control over pricing and content.

The deal, announced on Wednesday, covers some 50,000 French language titles, including literature, academic works and reference books, and is unlikely to generate huge revenue for Hachette parent company Lagardere.

But it is symbolically important as publishers around the world seek to protect their businesses from being cannibalized by the Internet.

Hachette has often been aggressive in defending the book industry’s business model against new Internet actors seeking to capture parts of the publishing value chain.

Earlier this year, Hachette withdrew some of its e-books from online retailer Amazon over a dispute on pricing, and the publisher also took a hard line with Apple over pricing of digital books on the iPad.

“We will control the price of books,” said Hachette Livre Chief Executive Arnaud Nourry on a conference call. “This puts several years of disagreements with Google behind us.”

For Google, the agreement could be a framework for deals with other European publishers, said Daniel Clancy, director of Google Books. Such talks have already begun, he added, without giving any details.

Google has clashed with book publishers worldwide over the book scanning project it launched in 2004 to create a universal library online.

In the United States, Google has reached a proposed settlement with the Authors’ Guild over a copyright lawsuit related to its book scanning project, but it has not yet been finalized.

The deal with Hachette in France is not the result of a legal action. A separate lawsuit was brought by the French publishers’ association last year over Google’s book scanning.

Under the terms of the deal, Google will provide a list of the works it wants to scan to Hachette each quarter and the publisher can say yes or no to each one.

Google then makes the out-of-print book available for reading and purchase on its Google Books platform, but Hachette sets the price. Google then provides a copy of the scanned work to Hachette, which can then use it on other sales platforms.

The two firms will share revenues from sales of these works, but the terms were not disclosed.

Nourry added that Hachette was eager to expand the agreement to its Spain unit, where it is among the top three publishers of Spanish-language books.

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