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How Google Books Works

Google Books Under Fire

Google continues to scan books, rapidly building its database and leveraging the contents for its own purposes. In the meantime, competitors, privacy advocates and federal authorities are closely monitoring the project.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether Google Books will stand the test of time. Will Google's enterprising project increase knowledge and understanding for everyone with computer access? Or will the company consolidate knowledge as power, build a massive monopoly and then charge a premium for access to its holdings?

Will Google Books take great care in protecting the privacy of its users? Or will it sell detailed tracking information to a corporation that's only too willing to exploit private information for every possible financial gain?

Will scientists harness the power of Google Books to solve some of humankind's most pressing problems? With more knowledge at their fingertips, perhaps they'll collaborate to end world hunger, cure awful diseases and advance technology to fantastic heights, all in a matter of a few years. Or will they be stymied by a database that's so large and unwieldy that it hampers the people it's supposed to help?

In short, when it comes to Google Books and its potential impact on humanity, there are more questions than answers. The scale of the project is so immense and the possible outcomes are so far-reaching that no one really knows where this path will lead.

Many pundits agree that no matter what happens with upcoming rounds of legal action, the fight over Google Books is just beginning, with battlefields developing both in the United States and abroad. A French judge recently backed publishers who sued Google, which had to remove all copyrighted French materials in its database and pay damages for infringement, too.

Although it's a confusing and complicated issue riddled with esoteric legal and economic jargon, the Google Books fight is one worth watching. You may be a witness to the birth of one of the most powerful knowledge-sharing networks ever created.