In his stimulating article on Intellectual Property and Copyright published in Saturday’s Guardian Review, John Lanchester leads us through a Japanese internment camp in Hong Kong, the legal battle over Lady and the Tramp, and Oxford’s Bodleian copyright library to explore Google’s Book Search program and what he terms a simple question:

The question is simple, and far-reaching: what’s going to happen to books and to the people who write them? And if it was books that first caused the whole idea of intellectual property to be raised, might it not be through books that we can see some promising ways through the murk, towards a future that is not dominated by corporate interests?

After recently evaluating a fiction manuscript entirely online, eyes protesting until lids closed and I entered my own fictional dream world, a process that repeated each time and over a few days, (in contrast, I can usually read a 200-page novel in book form in about two hours, generally without falling asleep), I agree with Lanchester that Google’s program won’t be as destructive as the publishing industry fears. I also admire the way he made a possibly snooze-able issue personal and engaging.

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