Google Makes 1.5 Million Books Available For iPhone, Android Phones - InformationWeek

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2/5/2009
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Google Makes 1.5 Million Books Available For iPhone, Android Phones

The mobile version of Google Book Search gives would-be Amazon Kindle buyers another option for reading classic literature on the go.

Google on Thursday granted users of Android mobile phones and Apple's iPhone access to more than 1.5 million books for free, if you exclude the $2,000 or so that go toward hardware and carrier charges over a two-year contract.

"What if you could also access literature's greatest works, such as Emma and The Jungle Book, right from your phone?" asked Google's Viresh Ratnakar, Guillaume Poncin, Brandon Badger, and Frances Haugen in a blog post. "Or, some of the more obscure gems such as Mark Twain's hilarious travelogue, Roughing It? Today we are excited to announce the launch of a mobile version of Google Book Search, opening up over 1.5 million mobile public domain books for you to browse while buying your postage."

Most books in the public domain were published before 1923. So Google's gift is less useful than it might be, particularly for those looking for modern technical information. But for aficionados of classic literature, this is the mother lode.

Google's generosity in making so many free books easily accessible to users of Android and Apple mobile phones may not please authors trying to sell copyrighted work or Amazon.com, which, through its Kindle e-book reader, has been building a market for paid digital text. But Google has never been reverential toward business models that depend on scarcity and control; it has always pursued a more-is-better policy with regard to information.

Google Book Search, formerly known as Google Print, was introduced in 2004 and targeted by publishers and their lawyers the following year for digitizing books without the permission of copyright holders.

Last October, Google announced a proposed settlement for these lawsuits that would make millions of books available online, at a cost of $125 million.

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," said Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, in a statement at the time. "Today, together with the authors, publishers, and libraries, we have been able to make a great leap in this endeavor. While this agreement is a real win-win for all of us, the real victors are all the readers. The tremendous wealth of knowledge that lies within the books of the world will now be at their fingertips."

That wealth of knowledge, at least some of it, is now accessible through a Web browser running on an iPhone or Android phone at http://books.google.com/m.

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