GBS: Survey Says

Publishers Weekly conducted an online survey of readers to see how they felt about the Google Book Search settlement. Now the results are in. Some interesting numbers:

If there is good news for the architects of the deal, it is that net support for court approval outweighs opposition—overall, 41% of respondents supported approval of the settlement, while 23% opposed the deal. Just weeks before the September 4 deadline for opting out or objecting to the settlement, however, it is notable that more than a third (36%) remain unsure of or indifferent to the settlement. Publishers (52%) support the settlement in the greatest numbers, followed by authors (42%) and librarians (29%).

Notably, some 23% of respondents said they were unsure whether they had standing—hinting at the level of confusion surrounding the settlement.

Because they are a party to the suit and chief architects and proponents of the settlement, we also broke out the 86 respondents who said they were members of the Authors Guild—just under 10% of the entire sample. Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of Authors Guild members favored approval of the settlement (62%). Still, we were somewhat surprised that less than a quarter of Authors’ Guild members we surveyed “enthusiastically supported” the settlement (24%). Some 19%, meanwhile, opposed the deal—four brave members said they actually planned to formally object to the settlement.

Overall, a surprisingly high number (61%) said they planned to take no action at all—roughly a third (32%) said they will take no action while 29% said they haven’t yet decided if they will participate. That number is inflated, however, by respondents who do not have standing—because without works to claim, respondents have fewer options; they can file comments, but otherwise have no need to act. When limited to those with standing, participation levels rise considerably, but still not to high levels. Just over half of those with standing (55%) said they have or will register to assert their rights by the January 5 deadline—rights that include receiving a $60 payment from Google if their book has been scanned.

Perhaps the most surprising result came from a simple but provocative question: we asked whether respondents supported the filing of the initial lawsuits, whether they believed the scanning was fair use or illegal, or the suits were ill-advised or well considered—for whatever reason. Notably, less than half of all respondents (49%) supported the original lawsuits.