Victories have been few and far between in the Google Books project, but a new deal with a French publisher may be a signal that the online library's fortunes are changing.

Hachette Livre, France's largest publisher, has made an agreement allowing Google to digitize tens of thousands of books both in and out of print. The deal does not automatically grant Google access to all of the books in Hachette Livre's catalog, as the publisher has retained the rights to select which books are made available, as well as for how long and whether the books are offered for free or for sale.

All of the titles will be available as e-books for the first time, and Google will offer them in a new French language e-book division of its Google Editions store. Hachette Livre is also providing copies of the books to libraries such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France to, as the publisher said, "contribute to the advancement of French culture."

Hachette Livre is said to account for a quarter of France's publishing market, which gives Google considerably more success than the company has seen so far -- overall, or in France specifically. "We would love to implement similar arrangements with other French publishers, and it's something that we have in mind as we talk to other partners," Google's Simon Morrison told the New York Times.

A number of french publishers have been more likely to see Google in court than as partners -- La Martinière, for example, successfully sued Google over unauthorized digitizing, and Albin Michel, Flammarion, and Gallimard are all currently weighing the possibility of lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the ongoing litigation over Google Books in the United States also hinges on the controversial practice of digitizing out-of-print books unless the copyright owner explicitly 'opts out'. Google has been given a deadline of September 15th by Appeals Court Judge Denny Chin, who had hinted that he would make a summary decision on the case if the company did not include an "opt-in" compromise.

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