The settlement, which is effective only in the U.S.—people elsewhere will only be able to view snippets of book text as they can now—is in some ways a win for publishers and authors. They will get new revenue streams for books that in most cases didn’t have a market anyway because they were out of print. However, Google also ended up paying what was relative chicken feed for the right to continue scanning books, and it will get what looks like a sizable chunk of revenues from subscriptions, as well as ad revenue. The only question is why it took well over two years for the two sides to come to an agreement that appears to work well for both of them, as well as for readers.
Regular readers may remember my July 2008 Observations where I discussed Google Book Search in the context of a print opportunity, inspired by HP (NYSE HPQ) Printing head Vyomesh Joshi's speech at drupa. Today's settlement clears the way for Google-enabled sale of out-of-print but still in-copyright books, in digital form. It seems clear many of these editions will be on the path from bits back to atoms -- how the print and print-related industries responds will be interesting to watch. The Official Google blog has further explanation about the arrangement, but nothing about printing!