Google books not visible outside the US — people are starting to notice

I was delighted to see an article at Mark Goodacre’s blog, The bizarre case of Google Books unavailable outside the US.  I’ve been banging on about this for some years.

There’s a great mass of material on Google Books.  Full copies of all works up to 1923 are online.  But … if you live outside the US, you can’t see any after 1880.  In fact if you use the search facility, you won’t even get to see the search results unless you’re in the US.  This bonkers situation was caused by pressure from non-US publishers, afraid that hypothetically they might miss out on some royalty or other.

Mark asks:

Well, this was news to me. I am really surprised that books like this, over one hundred years old, are not showing up in some countries. I realize, of course, that copyright laws differ from country to country. Nevertheless, I am curious to know how widespread this kind of difference between Google Books at home and abroad is. Anyone else experienced this?

Damn right we have.


10 thoughts on “Google books not visible outside the US — people are starting to notice

  1. That explains a lot. I’m glad I stocked up on a few good reads before moving to England. Thankfully, has come through on a few occasions but not as thorough as Google did (when I was still in the States).

  2. It’s the fact that Google doesn’t signal what is happening that is the worst bit. I’ve known about this for years, but clearly most people do not.

    The consequence must be that people outside the US go on as before, thinking Google Books isn’t really much use, without ever even realising that they are missing out.

  3. An American friends sometimes checks the sections I need to see and sends them to me as a gif or jpg. It’s complex, it’s frustrating, but it works.

  4. Is Google responding to a legal pressure by the non-US publishers (and may face legal action if it didn’t) or is it just being courteous to these idiots?

  5. Legal threats, I believe.

    I did suggest to Google Books last night that they highlight when books are only visible in the US. I’m not sure it went in.

  6. The obvious action for Google would be to tell us “peripheral” types when books would be available if publishers (ironic term) did not want to refuse us access. Also to supply us with an email address or ten so we can write to the (what IS the opposite of publisher?) censors and complain!

  7. As a librarian in an academic institution what I find so stupid is that in a world of academic publishing where if a book isn’t sold within a few years it it an academic remainder, the “half-life” of an academic book is with few exceptions less than 10 years, and there are very few popular works in series where there is a need to protect characters, plot, and filming rights (eg: Harry Potter series) – where is the logic in having copyright go beyond about 25 years.

    Somebody – who I don’t know – needs to question the various conventions and seek to have them overturned as horse-and-buggy legislation, appropriate for an earlier time but now just a hinderance

  8. Even here in China I do not have access to all the Google Books. And I haven’t the lsightest idea why the Government or publisher’s here in China would care about ancient copy rights. I suspect it is a general decision on the part of Google for all overseas areas.

  9. Academic books mostly have no commercial value after a short period. They disappear from print, never to be accessible again. But because they are in copyright, no-one can access them. I’ve had bad experiences along these lines myself.

    The old US system seemed to me much more sensible. Books came out of copyright after 28 years, unless the publisher renewed. I am told that only 15% of books ever *were* renewed. This would deal with the problem.

    I agree that Google needs to help us here. Make it more obvious that there is a censorship issue, and suggest ways to address it. I think they’ve just taken the view that they are a US firm, and all these obscurantist foreigners can just rot themselves, if they are really that stupid. It’s understandable, really.

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