Could Google Books ruling affect college textbook market?

Three in four college students prefer printed textbooks.

Advocates for Google’s massive digital library say the online repository is inevitable, despite recent setbacks, and could present an entirely new option for college textbooks.

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin on March 22 rejected a deal between Google and the book industry that would have put millions of volumes online, citing antitrust concerns and the need for Congressional action on the issue.

Chin, in his decision, said an online book repository would be beneficial for researchers, libraries, and schools, echoing advocacy from prominent campuses in recent years, including Stanford University and Cornell University.

Attorneys from all sides of the Google Books dispute are expected to gather in late April to discuss how the agreement between Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) will change after Chin’s ruling.

Many campuses that have lent support to Google Books have created their own digital book collections—modest online libraries when compared to the scope of Google’s collection of about 15 million works.

If Google Books is expanded to a modern-day Library of Alexandria—as many in higher education expect—students struggling to keep up with rising textbook costs might have a cheap option that would compete with online textbook rental services that have gained traction nationwide.

“The way in which I can see Google Books making a dramatic impact on our library and its students is with textbooks,” said Amy Stempler, coordinator of library instruction at the College of Staten Island City University of New York. “The circulation of our textbook reserves continues to increase, as does the cost of such books. So if they were available for free online, I would imagine it would be a most enticing option whose effect would be measurable.”

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