Just to clarify that last post. Mike Sullivan pointed out that Google is posting pages from Hentzenwerke books with the publisher’s permission and/or cooperation. Google is not infringing on my copyright by doing this. I signed over the right to publish my books to Hentzenwerke, with some limitations, and I believe this is within those terms.
I’ve wanted to get Hacker’s Guide to Visual FoxPro on to the web for the past couple of years, but the publisher and authors couldn’t work out the mechanism. Google has solved that problem, at no cost to us. For some books, it’s possible this will lead to new sales. For others, it can make the work more accessible, perhaps elevating the reputation of the authors, leading to new work, which is the motivation for many technical authors.
Technical books face some unique challenges. Frankly, Sturgeon’s Law dictates that 90% of all technical books are crud. Technical books may even exceed that standard. But the grueling effort of assembling a complex technical book or reference book will have a challenging economic model: will publishers want to advance authors money to write a book that people will read for free on Google? You gotta read a novel from cover to cover, but you usually only need to read a single topic in a reference book. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the marketplace. For the moment, I’m not inclined to invest a lot of effort in another reference work.