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LibreDigital Answers Google Books

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Google’s dustup with publishers around the globe last year over its plan to digitize every book in its path, sans permission, gave someone an idea. What if we do that with their permission? LibreDigital general manager Craig Miller says his company’s digitization service isn’t in direct response to Google, but a “natural extension” of what they were already doing.

Launched today, LibreDigital Warehouse is a new incarnation of NewsStand Inc., the six-year-old company that makes exact digital replicas for print periodicals, winning customers like the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, and USA Today.

Today’s stir, however, is over how this new division’s plans to take up the task that Google set out to do last year, but without all the lawsuits – digitizing books and making them searchable on the Web.

LibreDigital has signed up Harper Collins, a publishing company that has brought us books penned by Michael Crichton, John F. Kennedy, Earnest Hemmingway, Harper Lee, and Beverly Cleary. Miller says the company is also in talks with Random House (you know, Dr. Suess).

“The world of bringing book content online is here to stay,” said Miller. “The work we’re doing today is a big step in helping the industry find a balance between making book content easily accessible, while ensuring that literary copyrights of authors are adequately protected.”

The key difference, according to LibreDigital, from Google Books, is that authors and publishers have greater control of how their work is displayed online. Moving print content to the Web is essential, in their estimation, but the company seems to turn its nose up at grabbing books and scanning at will.

“We believe LibreDigital’s service is an important tool for helping our authors, distributors and independent booksellers better market and sell titles on the Web, while giving us control over the permissions and presentation quality of copyrighted material,” said Brian Murray, Group President of HarperCollins.

Miller bragged at length to WebProNews about the quality of LibreDigital’s digitization process. The end result, he says, allows online shoppers to look at a book in the same format as you would in a brick-and-mortar store, with black text instead of gray text.

“Our scanning is so accurate that the less handling the better,” he said. “Our scanners will pick up fingerprints. We handle all books in our system with white gloves – literally.”

The Warehouse displays books as to the publishers’ specifications, but also as they appear offline, with front and back cover information, and with a search function that will that will display three pages of a chapter, or 5 percent of the total book.

Moving books online brings new options to consumers as well. Miller weaves a utopian tale where the words “out of print” disappear. Books can be printed on demand, and in a larger font to make it easier for your grandmother to read.

It’s a good thing too. Grandma’s arms are only so long.

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