Culture Clash

Here’s a illustrative moment, retold by “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It” author Ken Auletta to Howard Kurtz this past weekend on CNN’s Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Now, Google also trying to build a vast online library, having disagreements with authors and publishers about that effort. Did one of the founders — did I get this right — of Google ask you why you didn’t just publish your book online?

AULETTA: Yes. In my second interview with co-founder Sergey Brin, he came in on his rollerblades and he threw his knapsack down on the table and he said, “Ken, let me ask you a question.” He said, “Why don’t you just publish a book for free online and get a much larger audience for it?”

And I said, “Well, I might bet a larger audience, but who’s going to pay me an advance so I have money to live on since I’m on leave from “The New Yorker” to do this? And by the way, Sergey, who’s going to edit my book and who’s going to do an index? And who’s going to market it? And who’s going to pay for my expenses to come out here as many times I’m coming out here?”

And, of course, at that point, Sergey Brin changed the subject. But it revealed two things, I think. One is that this is a guy that doesn’t know much about publishing. I mean, he’s idealistic and he wants to digitize all the books, but he doesn’t think about how content creators or writers or directors or screenwriters make money.

KURTZ: Right.

AULETTA: And secondly, I think it suggested an attitude about copyright, which is that it’s not as important to the people at Google as it is the notion of what’s called fair use, which is, let’s get all of the information for free and put it out there on the Internet.

KURTZ: Right. But here you’ve spent a couple of years of your life researching and writing this book, and obviously you don’t want to give it away.

Full transcript here. (Via Tom Tomorrow and Matt Bors)

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.