…but does Google’s announcement that it will begin selling ebooks later this year through a more or less straight-foward e-commerce platform mean it expects its proposed settlement with publishers in the Google Books case to be rejected by the court? Or, regardless of what the court does, to be scotched by the Justice Department, which is currently investigating the settlement on possible anti-trust grounds?
Google should certainly have good sources in the Obama Administration. Aside from CEO Eric Schmidt’s campaigning on behalf of Barack Obama, three senior Google execs have joined the administration since January, the latest being former head of global public policy Andrew McLaughlin, who has been named to the newly created position of Deputy CTO by the White House.
More to the point, the plan outlined by Google at BookExpo last weekend certainly raises a lot fewer questions than does the terms of the proposed settlement (insofar as anyone fully understands them). The settlement would make Google effectively the exclusive seller of out-of-print by still-in-copyright books and lead the creation of a vast new rights clearing house under Google’s control for in-print books.
Without the leverage of a court order (should the settlement be rejected) Google would need some other way to make in-roads with publishers and on Amazon’s current dominance of the ebook market. Allowing publishers to set the retail price of ebooks, as Google is now proposing, and leveraging its global reach to help publishers reach beyond Amazon’s walled Kindle garden would be the two obvious moves.