Researching things on the web is an essential part of everyday business – but too often books and other printed sources get left behind.
Google’s aim is possibly one of the the most daring and challenging I’ve seen announced by any company: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” To bring them another step forward, Larry Sage and Sergey Brin announced Google Print, at the Frankfurt Book Fair this week.
Designed to help people discover books , Google Print allows users to search across the full text of entire books. Sadly, as with Amazon’s own book search facility, users cannot read or download the entire book, but there are links to buy a copy. Printing and image copying is blocked on book pages returned from searches. So you don’t read an entire book for free by doing multiple searches on the same title, Google keeps a watch on the number of pages you’ve viewed from a particular book – though this is not associated with user information, so no one can tell what books you’re looking at online.
Google is encouraging publishers to send copies of their books to Google for scanning and indexing, free of charge – the company hopes that it will make revenue from advertising on the search pages, and from the links to online book sellers. Currently, McGraw-Hill, Scholastic and Penguin are amongst the first publishers to submit titles for inclusion in Google’s new venture.
Handy if you’re looking for something that might be contained in a book that’s in print, but what about the many thousands of books that are out of print? There’s no incentive for publishers to put books they don’t intend to reprint online, as there’s no physical book to sell through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Making out of print titles available electronically for a fee really would be a step towards making the world’s information universally accessible as they account for millions of pages of text that is currently hidden from any search engine.