From the Boston Globe:
Publisher HarperCollins said yesterday it plans to convert 20,000 books in its catalog into digital form in a bid to rein in potential copyright violations on the Internet.
Chief executive Jane Friedman said HarperCollins […] had no immediate plan to raise revenue from the digital copies of the books but it had concluded it was a vital move to protect its authors’ rights.
Under the plan, HarperCollins will hold all of the digital copies of its books in a digital warehouse and it will allow companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Amazon.com to crawl the server to create an index, Murray said. This will allow Google and other search systems to offer what, in effect, amount to electronic card catalogs to help users locate the full work.
”If publishers don’t do this, there are going to be too many digital copies of books out there,” he said, noting that currently companies like Google, Yahoo, and others were all making their own copies, making it difficult for publishers to ensure their authors’ copyright is respected.
A CNet article explains a little more:
…there were no concrete plans in place to make money from the project, there were various possibilities down the line, from e-books to subscriptions or advertising.
It’s not clear to me how this “rein[s] in potential copyright violations”, as CNet puts it. Anyone care to shed some light?