Much debate has arisen over Google Print, and I would like to weight in on the matter: It’s much ado about nothing. Why? Because it is almost completely useless in today’s form.
I did a search in Google today for “how to write a business letter”, and the first listing came up as “Book Results”. Ok, I thought, this will be great, and I click on the first link. I come to a non-intuitive interface that hides the fact that all I’m going to see is the table of contents. Now, I’m not “just off the boat”, I had a feeling something like this would happen. But, actually being in a position of a web-user, I must say that this really sucks. If you can’t read what you need/want to, what good is it? After determining that the last 1 minute of my life was wasted, I hit back button and moved on to web results.
I would hate to call what many consider the “world’s coolest geeks” dumb, and I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to. I bet that they know the product is useless right now, and so do the publishers fighting with them. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that Google has the technology and the motivation to index all of the print material they can, and the publishers know that they are living in a dying medium. When their medium finally does die, who will be there to save the day? Google. The book companies will be held captive by the number one search engine, and will be forced give their content away, or it will be rolled up into some aggregator a la “Walmart” style, and sold for nothing (Walmart has been criticized for strongarming smaller businesses in the past, and I have personally seem them in action in years past). Modeling the techniques of what is probably the greatest business in world history? No, these geeks certainly aren’t dumb.
However, the current state of all of this stinks. It reminds me of a system that we had in the library called “Infotrac”. How annoying it was to have to shlep to the library to use this system, and half of the results that you would get you didn’t access to because the library didn’t subscribe to that content (or perhaps, you would only get an abstract).
This brings me to another pet-peeve, along the same lines of this information-restriction. When searching for technical things, I often get results from experts-exchange. This is particularly annoying, because you have to at least be a member, and perhaps even pay to see the results. Now, to be fair, I am a long-time member, but I don’t remember my account info (another problem with the web…), and I’m not about to sit there and try to figure it out.
So, it would be nice if Google put something in their preferences to turn off the “features” that we don’t want. Don’t include book results until I actually get the results, and don’t include information that is not free for me to at least read. I’m as much a capitalist as the next guy, but if I can’t have it, there’s no sense in teasing me about it. Besides, I personally think you would have BETTER luck in getting book publishers to provide license to the content by NOT providing it. The “legitimacy” of the web is becoming stronger daily, and someone (most likely a capitalist) will publish their own version of the info for free in the hopes of making advertising revenue anyway, so the World will just use that. Sooner than becoming completely obsolete, the book publishers will cave and provide some form of useable license to Google.
Even if everyone held on to the idea of being able to “buy and sell” the info, there was no way for me to do that there. I was given links to Amazon, BN, etc., but the fact that I’m using the web to search for information pretty much means that I want it NOW. Not an “‘estimated shipping time 1-2 days’ + priority overnight” from Now.
It will come at some point, and it will be useful. Someone CC me on the announcement when it does.