Google Exploring Online Book Rentals

Search giant Google is reportedly investigating methods where its users could rent online copies of books for one week, indicating that the company is continuing to flesh out ways to make its Google Print service more attractive to publishers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a publisher contacted by Google has said users would not be able to download or print the books, although those features may be added later. Google has proposed that the fee be ten percent of the book's list price, although the publisher indicated that pricing was too low.

Google's online book service has been the target of much criticism from both authors and publishers. In September, the Authors Guild took the company to court over what it called "massive copyright infringement," followed by pressure from the Association of American Publishers last month.

However, Google is determined to press on, announcing this month that it had made 10,000 books in the public domain available online in their entirety earlier.

While the rental program is separate from the its searchable book effort, Google could potentially use the rental model to keep publishers and authors happy, as customers would be paying for the right to view the book.

A similar program was announced by Amazon.com, which consists of two services. Customers would either be able to purchase a portion of the book, or the entire book for viewing online. However, unlike the Google model, users would have "permanent" rights to view the material.

Google has refused to confirm that it is pursuing publishers for a rental service, but told the WSJ that it is exploring various "access models to help authors and publishers sell more books online."

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