The opposition against Google’s (GOOG) book digitization program is strengthening. The New York Times has come out with a story stating that Microsoft (MSFT), Yahoo! (YHOO) and Amazon (AMZN) have entered the fray.

While Amazon management avoided comment, Microsoft and Yahoo expressed their dissension by joining an association called the Open Book Alliance. The obvious intention of the association is to increase pressure on the Justice Department, which is currently considering the case. The department is expected to award a decision on October 7.

As it happens, the book deal affects different sections of the population. The first section comprises the competition, which is wary of Google’s prowess in the search market. Their fear is that Google will use information on what people read to further improve and strengthen its position in search. Therefore, their complaint is that the deal is anticompetitive.

The second group is made up of librarians and academics. This group fears that Google will use its property rights to raise the price of important journals and writings of academic interest, thereby rendering them unavailable to many. While Google has recently allayed their fears regarding distribution of user information, academics continue to look for a more specific commitment from the company.

Lawyers as a group have also started to comment, stating that the agreement fails to adequately compensate writers. One particular lawyer claims that the deal was struck without proper negotiation and informed consent, which are necessary components of a valid commercial transaction.

Thus, we come down to the people directly affected—the writers and publishers. Google intends to make sections of books available for perusal, using this method to attract buyers who could then obtain the complete work upon payment of the specified price.

The problem started with Google obtaining marketing and distribution rights to “orphaned” works, which are out-of-print books that continue to have a copyright holder that can’t be traced. Google has already scanned nearly seven million books, of which 60-70% are out of print.

Last year, the company made a settlement with the authors of orphaned works, giving out $125 million toward the setting up of a Book Rights Registry (BRR) and payment for already scanned works. The company will pay 63% of amounts collected from the sale of books and text advertisements that will appear on the sides.

We find it hard to understand how writers could expect higher compensation. If Google is keeping 37% of book revenue, it is also paying out 63% of advertisement revenue collected in the procedure. The company takes the pains of advertising and marketing the books. Even after this, unsatisfied authors are free to withdraw at any time, allowing for a period of 48 hours.

We also consider the book digitization process to be most futuristic, and like it or not, it was bound to happen sooner or later. On the other hand, Google’s initiative could lay the roadmap for future upcoming authors and help them market their products.
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