Seventh Update, Tuesday March 13, 2012: Free Google Books Downloads Work Again
Sixth Update, Tuesday March 13, 2012: According to a Commenter below, who spoke to Google via phone:
I received two follow-up emails as well, the last saying “Our engineering team has identified the problem and are working to resolve it quickly. While I cannot offer you an exact timeframe as to when it will be fixed, I will email you as soon as I have an update.”
It must be some catastrophic screw-up for it to take this long to fix. As of ~8:30AM EDST, I am getting Whale Fail when I am past the CAPTCHA for a PDF download. Since so many people are coming to this blog for this post, I am going to make a separate Sticky.
Fifth Update, Monday March 12, 2012: According to a Comment below:
Just got off the phone with Google. They are aware of the issue and are working to fix it. And they confirmed that it is just an error — there are no plans to disable pdf downloads of public domain works. Good to know!
I hope that is true and it is fixed soon. This post has been gaining in popularity as others come across the problem. It seems I am the only one to post about it.
Fourth Update, Monday March 12, 2012: Google’s transition to Play has been a disaster for PDF downloads both at Play and at Google Books. Play seems to still offer PDF downloads — even the Help Center acknowledges PDF-formatted books cannot be read offline in a browser and must be downloaded! — but they are broken, just as in Google Books, with ~34K weird non-PDF files that download.
Third Update, Saturday March 10, 2012: Google Books is currently totally FUBARed. What I thought were PDF downloads turned out not to be. I didn’t check until a Commenter mentioned what he was getting. Let’s hope Google fixes this by next week. Or explains just what the hell is going on.
Second Update, Saturday March 10, 2012: This glitch hasn’t been totally resolved. Out of twenty books I’ve had on a shelf for downloading, only three worked. The rest got the Whale Fail message.
Update, Saturday March 10, 2012: Less than 24 hours later, PDF downloads work again. This might have been a temporary glitch due to the Google Play effort. However, I’m not embarrassed to be seen as absolutely wrong about this — because I want Google to understand that I am watching Google Books.
I’m waiting for someone at the near-dead Google Books Twitter account to reply (this might be a futile effort!) but right now what I’m experiencing at the public domain Google Books is not good. And I think I know Google well enough to make this post’s headline a flat statement and not a question.
Search for any book via a single keyword (try “success”), get a list of results, restrict list to public domain books, choose a book (try Success: A Novel, the PDF I use for tests), choose Download PDF, enter CAPTCHA (properly!), and I keep getting this:
That is not how it’s supposed to be!
When Google consolidated and rebranded parts of its commercial digital goods enterprises to Google Play earlier this week, it stated that books would be Cloud-based.
But that should not apply to Google Books — distinct from the commercial Google eBookstore — which was created as a joint project with public libraries.
I’ve been a one-man army against the parasites of the public domain, downloading public domain books before they were DMCAed away by those who grabbed them to re-Copyright them. I have several thousand such books that will remain free, despite any court decisions and private actions (such as this, this, and this) that permit otherwise.
But now, with public domain books seemingly all being Cloud-based, we are all at the mercy of the public domain parasites who will DMCA them away without Google putting up any fight on behalf of the public domain.
Let me make this clear: By having these books all Cloud-based, it will be just about impossible now to do posts of historic value due to the inability to properly capture images from them.
Here’s an example of some I did earlier this year:
Selling Mark Twain In 1917
Rare Napoleon Hill Writings: January 1917
Rare Napoleon Hill Writings: February 1918
Rare Napoleon Hill Writings: June-July 1918
Rare Napoleon Hill Writings: August-September 1915
Rare Napoleon Hill Writings: January 1920
Rare Napoleon Hill Writings: January 1921
Rare Napoleon Hill Writings: November 1921
Book Publishing: This Isn’t 1922 Any Longer
1922: How To Market Reading And Books
1922: How To Market Reading And Books, Part Two
1922: Crime Fiction Popular Then Too
The images in them were possible only because I could download the PDF version and extract the actual scanned page for publication.
That’s just not at all possible by trying to screensnap a Cloud-based book.
I’ve used Google Books for so long, I can recall when there was no CAPTCHA used. You could go in and download book after book without any interruption. Then Google added some limits claiming people were abusing the service by using scripts. Then they instituted CAPTCHAs. Then they piled on additional time limits where — even with CAPTCHAs — if you downloaded X number of books within Y minutes, your account could be locked down for a few hours up to a whopping 24-72 hours (this actually happened to me more than once).
And now this!
Am I the only person to see that Google has now claimed virtual ownership of every book it has scanned?
This is not right. These books came from public libraries and belong to all of us. Google’s purpose for scanning them was to enhance its mission to index information — not to own it.
The free download portion of Google Books must be restored.
If it isn’t, Google is guilty of the biggest book theft in the history of mankind.