Cory Doctorow has just posted one of the best (and most comprehensive) essays I’ve yet to read on the publishing industry’s objections to Google Book Search. If you are interested in this topic, or Fair Use rights in general, then this is a must-read.
Finally, it’s no foregone conclusion that free electronic copies of a book will substitute for sales of physical copies of that book. My first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was released as a free, open download on the same day that it appeared in stores. Three years later, it’s in its sixth printing and more than 650,000 copies of it have been distributed from my website (an untold and unknowable number of copies have been distributed by others, as well). That’s because my biggest threat as an author isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. The majority of ideal readers who fail to buy my book will do so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free electronic copy.