Internet Archive uncloaks open ebook dream machine

Will Google play?


The Internet Archive and various like-minded partners have launched an open architecture for selling and lending digital books online, an effort to consolidate the fledgling market for net texts - and give Google a little food for thought.

Dubbed BookServer, the open platform is meant to provide a standard means for booksellers, publishers, libraries, and individual authors to serve texts onto laptops, netbooks, smartphones, game consoles, and specialized ereaders a la the Amazon Kindle. The Archive has already demonstrated an early incarnation of the architecture with the Kindle and Sony's Reader Digital Book.

"The idea of Bookserver is to integrate business models and organizations that actually have fairly different points of view into a structure that allows the selling, giving away, and loaning of books," Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle said during a Monday morning mini-conference where the spec was unveiled.

Based on the RSS-like Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS) standard, Bookserver is still in the early stages of development. But a preliminary version of the architecture is now in place at both the Internet Archive and the Feedbooks etext distributor, while tech-book publisher O'Reilly Media - who helped launch the effort - says it has every intention of adopting the architecture to serve up its own titles.

Bookserver arrives as American book giant prepares its own ebook device and the entire industry continues to chatter over Google's epic Book Search project, an effort to digitize and distribute millions of texts inside the world's leading research libraries. In October, Mountain View settled a lawsuit from American authors and publishers over the project, and the Internet Archive - along with Amazon, Microsoft, and other members of the Open Book Alliance - was far from shy about its opposition to the pact.

The pact creates a "Book Rights Registry" where copyright holders can resolve claims in exchange for a cut of Google's revenues. But it also gives Google a unique right to digitize and sell and post ads against "orphan works" - titles whose rights holders have not come forward. Other organizations could negotiate the rights to works in the Registry, but the Registry alone would have the power to set prices.

Following an investigation by the US Department of Justice, Google and the case's other parties are now working to rewrite the settlement, but Mountain View is pushing ahead with its plans to offer up scanned works to the web at large. Last week, at a conference in Frankfurt, Germany, the company said that next year will see the introduction of its first ebook store, dubbed Google Editions.

The company did not respond to our request for comment on the announcement. But according to a report from Bookseller.com, Editions will allow netizens to purchase books directly from Google and read them on any device with a web browser. Google will keep 37 per cent of the payments, and the rest will go to the publisher. The company will also offer versions of the service that allow retailers and publishers to sell books directly. If a book is published through a third-party retailer, the publisher will take 45 percent of the payment, with the remaining 55 per cent split between Google and the retailer. It's unclear how the split would work if the publisher is selling directly through the service.

The service would provide a "cloud library," where buyers could access their texts online after purchasing - provided they can get online. But once they're accessed on a particular device, copies will be cached locally.

Meanwhile, the likes of Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and others have opened their own online ebook stores, and each has, shall we say, its own ebook philosophy. Whereas Google says its Editions service will serve up titles for reading on any web browser, for instance, Amazon's store only offers titles encoded with the company's DRM-ified .AZW format and the unprotected mobipocket format on which AZW is based. And there are countless other formats in use, from various proprietary creations to the open ePub format to good ol' Adobe PDFs.

Next page: 'A messy landscape'

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • End of the road for biz living off free G Suite legacy edition
    Firms accustomed to freebies miffed that web giant's largess doesn't last

    After offering free G Suite apps for more than a decade, Google next week plans to discontinue its legacy service – which hasn't been offered to new customers since 2012 – and force business users to transition to a paid subscription for the service's successor, Google Workspace.

    "For businesses, the G Suite legacy free edition will no longer be available after June 27, 2022," Google explains in its support document. "Your account will be automatically transitioned to a paid Google Workspace subscription where we continue to deliver new capabilities to help businesses transform the way they work."

    Small business owners who have relied on the G Suite legacy free edition aren't thrilled that they will have to pay for Workspace or migrate to a rival like Microsoft, which happens to be actively encouraging defectors. As noted by The New York Times on Monday, the approaching deadline has elicited complaints from small firms that bet on Google's cloud productivity apps in the 2006-2012 period and have enjoyed the lack of billing since then.

    Continue reading
  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading
  • Google recasts Anthos with hitch to AWS Outposts
    If at first you don't succeed, change names and try again

    Google Cloud's Anthos on-prem platform is getting a new home under the search giant’s recently announced Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) portfolio, where it will live on as a software-based competitor to AWS Outposts and Microsoft Azure Stack.

    Introduced last fall, GDC enables customers to deploy managed servers and software in private datacenters and at communication service provider or on the edge.

    Its latest update sees Google reposition Anthos on-prem, introduced back in 2020, as the bring-your-own-server edition of GDC. Using the service, customers can extend Google Cloud-style management and services to applications running on-prem.

    Continue reading
  • FTC urged to probe Apple, Google for enabling ‘intense system of surveillance’
    Ad tracking poses a privacy and security risk in post-Roe America, lawmakers warn

    Democrat lawmakers want the FTC to investigate Apple and Google's online ad trackers, which they say amount to unfair and deceptive business practices and pose a privacy and security risk to people using the tech giants' mobile devices.

    US Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and House Representative Sara Jacobs (D-CA) requested on Friday that the watchdog launch a probe into Apple and Google, hours before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, clearing the way for individual states to ban access to abortions. 

    In the days leading up to the court's action, some of these same lawmakers had also introduced data privacy bills, including a proposal that would make it illegal for data brokers to sell sensitive location and health information of individuals' medical treatment.

    Continue reading
  • Google: How we tackled this iPhone, Android spyware
    Watching people's every move and collecting their info – not on our watch, says web ads giant

    Spyware developed by Italian firm RCS Labs was used to target cellphones in Italy and Kazakhstan — in some cases with an assist from the victims' cellular network providers, according to Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG).

    RCS Labs customers include law-enforcement agencies worldwide, according to the vendor's website. It's one of more than 30 outfits Google researchers are tracking that sell exploits or surveillance capabilities to government-backed groups. And we're told this particular spyware runs on both iOS and Android phones.

    We understand this particular campaign of espionage involving RCS's spyware was documented last week by Lookout, which dubbed the toolkit "Hermit." We're told it is potentially capable of spying on the victims' chat apps, camera and microphone, contacts book and calendars, browser, and clipboard, and beam that info back to base. It's said that Italian authorities have used this tool in tackling corruption cases, and the Kazakh government has had its hands on it, too.

    Continue reading
  • Brave Search leaves beta, offers Goggles for filtering, personalizing results
    Freedom or echo chamber?

    Brave Software, maker of a privacy-oriented browser, on Wednesday said its surging search service has exited beta testing while its Goggles search personalization system has entered beta testing.

    Brave Search, which debuted a year ago, has received 2.5 billion search queries since then, apparently, and based on current monthly totals is expected to handle twice as many over the next year. The search service is available in the Brave browser and in other browsers by visiting search.brave.com.

    "Since launching one year ago, Brave Search has prioritized independence and innovation in order to give users the privacy they deserve," wrote Josep Pujol, chief of search at Brave. "The web is changing, and our incredible growth shows that there is demand for a new player that puts users first."

    Continue reading
  • Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near
    Overhaul of Chrome add-ons set for January, Google says it's for all our own good

    Special report Seven months from now, assuming all goes as planned, Google Chrome will drop support for its legacy extension platform, known as Manifest v2 (Mv2). This is significant if you use a browser extension to, for instance, filter out certain kinds of content and safeguard your privacy.

    Google's Chrome Web Store is supposed to stop accepting Mv2 extension submissions sometime this month. As of January 2023, Chrome will stop running extensions created using Mv2, with limited exceptions for enterprise versions of Chrome operating under corporate policy. And by June 2023, even enterprise versions of Chrome will prevent Mv2 extensions from running.

    The anticipated result will be fewer extensions and less innovation, according to several extension developers.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022