Update: Google has confirmed this information today in its blog.
Free music and video downloads have been common place in the Internet for a few years now. Google has been able to get into some of this action with the Google video web site, and related efforts. Now, they also want to provide downloads for free books, of which they have a lot, from the millions of scans stored on Google book search.
Basically, the idea is to provide access to the books free of copyright, but letting users to download the content in some format similar to pdf. The books will be readable and printable in the local computer.
According to CIO.com,
The books available for download will only be those that are in the public domain and thus not protected by copyright, Smith said. Until now, people have been able to read these public-domain books on the Google Book Search website, but not download and print them, he said. ... Google will not allow downloading of copyrighted books, not even those for which it has obtained permission from the copyright holders to display their full text, Smith said.
However, it doesn't take much imagination to see how they can partner with publisher worldwide and provide legitimate downloads of new books, using their Google checkout payment system. This may look like good news for readers who will have better access to books. Let us see if this initiative really works in practice.
Link via CIO.com