google print

My thoughts on Google Print, such as they are.

Benjamin asked for my opinion on Google Print. I started to reply in the comments, but it quickly grew from a small reply to something entry-sized:

I haven’t blogged on Google Print because I haven’t decided what I think about it. It’s gotten coverage on a variety of librarian blogs, as well as some public radio programs that I’ve heard.

The way I see it, it’s often difficult to find material in books because they aren’t always indexed very well. Unlike many journals, they aren’t available full-text so that you can search the entire book. Some companies are providing books in full-text formats, and there are several models for it, but their emphasis is on new books. I think what Google Print has to offer is full-text searching of old and out of print books. Often these have useful information for modern scholars.

My concern about Google Print is twofold:
1. Copyright — They need to be careful in not stepping over the line of copyright or else the whole project may be tainted.
2. Searching — If I’m doing scholarly research, I don’t want to get 10,000 hits on a keyword search. I’m not sure how Google’s relevance rankings will work for books, but I hope that the search results will be as precise and accurate as a good reference database’s.

I’m keeping an open mind, waiting to see how it all turns out. I don’t want to trash Google Print just because it may step on the toes of libraries. I do hope that libraries will keep the books that are scanned into Google Print, because I doubt our users who want to read the whole book rather than gleaning information from parts of it will be willing to read it on a computer screen or print out the entire thing. On the other hand, our emerging users are more comfortable with screen text than even my generation, so I could be wrong.

One thought on “google print”

  1. I have relevant knowledge to the issue of their relevance rankings as they apply to books. Essentially, they won’t. At least, not without a lot of tweaking.

    Google’s ranking technology uses a back-tracking algorithm to figure out how many other pages link to a given page, and that tells the program how important the Internet considers the page to be. With books, there’s no way you could do that (unless they used bibliography entries, which would be cool, but it would only work for more scholarly stuff).

    But I’d guess that, since they’re Google and have practically every genius PhD in the search world working for them, they’ve already worked out a solution to the problem.

    I still think that Google has a serious copyright problem to deal with before they can make this work. For books that have entered the public domain, they’re definately in the clear, but for anything else they’re going to have to be very very careful about how much of a book can be seen by a user or they’re going to end up outside of the “fair use” box.

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