Wednesday, July 22, 2009

There's Money In Those Old Books

The University of Michigan has announced a collaboration with Booksurge, Amazon’s print on demand service. As a result Booksurge will offer reprints of some 400,000 rare, out-of-print and out-of-copyright books from its library in soft cover editions at prices from $10 to $45.

The books are in more than 200 languages from Acoli to Zulu and include a 1898 book on nursing by Florence Nightingale, "Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it is not." Some of the books are one of kind, meaning they had been available only from the shelves of the University of Michigan.

The move is now possible because of the university's project to digitize its collection in partnership with Google and the as books in the Michigan-Amazon deal are in the public domain, the revenues generated will be split between Booksurge and the University.

The arrangement is a significant addition to BookSurge's inventory and it will be interesting to watch if others follow and whether the arrangements will be exclusive or open. The other question is how Google will respond as the move could be seen as cutting off what many thought was an obvious revenue stream .

Today the deal involves public domain works and as we wrote earlier this week with respect to the dispute between Wikipedia and The National Portrait Gallery in the UK making – he who owns the public domain rendition and digitalises it can now earn from it.

University of Michigan libraries Dean Paul Courant said the arrangement means "books unavailable for a century or more will be able to go back into print, one copy at a time." Albeit at a new price.

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