How Google is working to create a massive virtual library
It looks like Google has struck an agreement with some of the nation's leading librariesincluding Harvard, Stanford, and the New York Public Libraryas well as Oxford University to begin digitizing their holdings. The implications of this are really astounding. The move is a first step in creating a "global virtual library (as the New York Times is putting it) where pretty much the entire store of mankind's written knowledge is available at anyone's fingertips. And just how this deal going to contribute to the bottom line at Google? As John Battelle comments at his popular SearchBlog site:
"This could well be a step toward diversifying Google's revenue streams away from advertising and into direct sales and/or subscriptions i.e., the content business... It's also a very short route to the on-demand publishing of an out-of-print and out-of-copyright book with a company that is set up to do such a deal, and I am aware of at least one that is about to launch that will provide just such a service."
If Battelle is right, this deal will be an example of a business concept call the "long tail," which holds that with online distribution there is plenty of money to be made with the 80 or 90 percent of booksand music and moviesthat aren't big hits, as well as old, out-of-copyright books. Misses can make money, too. Though individually the misses are not as profitable as hits, there are a lot more of them. Indeed, as this Wired article on the "long tail" points out, "the average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles." It sure looks like there is big market for books beyond the big hits.