Google and Random House Move Closer on Book Search

Random House, the world's largest book publisher, is considering joining a book-search project run by search-engine giant Google, once considered an arch-enemy by the paper publishing industry. According to sources close to the matter, the two parties are currently talking to one another about the less controversial part of Google 's book-scanning project, its partner program: the company has agreements with more than 10,000 publishers, large and small, who give their books to Google to be scanned in full. The books are then made partially available—according to agreements with each publisher—for online readers.

Unfortunately, the other part of the library project has proved more controversial and thrown Google into legal dispute with U.S. publishers; Google often scans works from its U.S. library partners that are still in copyright without asking the publishers first. Random House, a unit of German media group Bertelsmann, has until now held out and not joined the publisher partner program, which has been shown to help boost book sales, especially of publishers' so-called backlists of older titles. When asked this week whether the parties were close to an agreement, a Random House spokesman said: "Random House continues to have periodic constructive conversations with Google on issues of mutual relevance."

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