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Google book-scanning forges ahead in Europe

Remember the Google Books Settlement? The controversial, precedent-setting agreement would give Google a legal basis for building a massive digital library of out-of-print books, but the deal is still awaiting final approval from a U.S. court. What about Google Editions? Google’s e-book service was supposed to launch in North America this summer, but it has also stalled.

In Europe, however, Google’s book-digitization projects are moving ahead. On Wednesday, the company announced it had reached a deal with Hachette Livre in France to scan thousands of out-of-print books and make them available for sale through Google Editions, which is now expected to launch in Europe by Easter. While the deal with Hachette has ruffled feathers in the French cultural establishment, which vigorously opposes Google’s digitization efforts, a Google spokesperson says the deal could serve as a framework for other French publishers and maybe other publishers around the world, The New York Times reports.

Now, The Bookseller is reporting that Google is in talks with U.K. publishers over a similar deal to scan and sell orphan works. From The Bookseller:

Industry observers welcomed the announcement [of a deal with Hachette Livre] saying it was a sign of how Google was “playing nice” towards book publishers…..

On the surface, the deal achieves a similar result to the Google Books Settlement, though without the costly litigation and long-wait for judicial approval. Piers Blofeld, an agent at Sheil Land, and one of the harshest critics of the original GBS said: “At first look it is a far more collaborative system and crucially Google seem to have come a long way in their interpretation of copyright. This looks like good news.