Pick up your library pass to Google

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 at 4:40 PM

When we announced the launch of Google Book Search (then called Google Print), we were bowled over by how many people wrote to tell us how excited they were about Google working to make the world's books searchable online. One of the most memorable emails came from Laura Moody, a librarian at the Gulf Shores Public Library in Alabama. She wrote:
I admire a company that is so in line with the premise of library ideals. The dissemination of knowledge, especially the scanning in of the university collections and making them available to all in the WORLD, is truly noble. You are not just working at a job. You will enable, in a strange way, the remaining doors of ignorance to be blasted away. You will allow those people who are still isolated from the rest of the world to experience the light of knowledge. Remain true to your vision. Go home at the end of the day with a sigh of well-earned satisfaction. Some people talk about changing the world. You are actually doing it.

On top of making our day (week? month? year?), this email prompted us to think more deeply about how similar Google's mission is to a librarian's, and to explore ways we can work more closely with librarians in the quest to connect people and information.

Since then, we've launched the Google Librarian Center, a new resource center for librarians. While we're still in the early stages of the project and there's plenty more to come, we recently released our first teaching tool: a downloadable "cheat sheet" poster providing web search tips for librarians and their patrons. We also posted the archives of the Google Librarian Newsletter, which by our last count reaches nearly 30,000 librarians all around the world. So far in the newsletter, we've answered common questions librarians ask us about Google tools, including "How does Google rank search results?" and "How does Google Earth work?" Then we passed the baton to librarians, asking Karen Schneider of the Librarians' Internet Index (LII) how she makes sense of search results. And in the next issue, scheduled for release at the end of June, we'll focus for the first time on Google Book Search.

If you're a librarian, a book lover or just curious about how to get the most out of Google tools, we invite you to visit the website and sign up for the Google Librarian Newsletter. You can join the newsletter group and receive the next issue by entering your email address here. Read the full post 0 comments


Publish locally, connect globally

Friday, May 26, 2006 at 2:52 PM

If you've ever wandered into a tiny bookshop in a quiet town, you've probably stumbled across a book published by Arcadia – a publisher that specializes in bringing to life the unique history of America's small towns. A partner in Google Book Search, Arcadia joined the program so people everywhere could discover books about places that hold personal meaning to them. Like the "small" town of Dorchester, Massachusetts – once an independent farming community, now a longstanding Irish-American enclave of Boston, passionately celebrated in song and affectionately referred to by locals as "Dot."

For us, Arcadia's success is exciting because it demonstrates what we hoped Google Book Search would enable: readers finding books they have a personal connection to, regardless of whether they have the opportunity to visit the local bookstore in "Dot" or anywhere else. Here's a video about Arcadia that we showed this past weekend at BookExpo America. Enjoy.

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Photos from BEA

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 8:03 AM

For a book lover, walking through the exhibition hall at BookExpo America (BEA) is like being a kid in a candy store. It's packed to the rafters with thousands of books in every conceivable flavor -- from the latest comic books and manga titles to knitting how-tos, memoirs, mystery novels and audiobooks. As we passed out cookies to entice attendees to try out Book Search at our "Just a Taste" ice cream stands, we met people searching for books on everything from how to repair a kayak to how to deal with personal loss. For me it was an inspiring reminder of why Book Search exists -- to help people discover the rich diversity of the world of books, even beyond the astounding variety that can fit under one roof.

Here are a few photos from the past few days -- stay tuned this week for video clips and more.

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Blogging BookExpo America

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 7:31 AM

Wow. BookExpo America has grown quite a bit since Mark Twain spoke at the first convention in 1902. Expanding from an audience of 60 to a crowd this year of 25,000, BEA is an explosion of activity, and we're extremely excited to be part of it.

For the third year in a row, Book Search team members are here in DC to do demonstrations, talk with authors and publishers, chat with librarians and connect with fellow book lovers. Along the way, we'll post reports and photos from the exhibition hall. So if you weren't able to make it to DC this year, check back over the next couple of days and experience some of the fun right here. Read the full post 0 comments


From the Google Book Search mail bag

Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 9:40 AM

As a regular feature on this blog, we'll be addressing questions from our users, including questions about how to get the most out of Book Search.

This week, Pavan asks:
If I want to see only full-view books, how do I do it?
You can limit your search to full-view books right from the Book Search homepage. Simply click the 'Full view books' button and enter your search term as you usually do -- you'll get results limited to full-view titles, including public domain titles and books that publishers have chosen to display in full view.

Whenever you use Book Search, we strive to give you the most relevant books for the search terms you enter -- but sometimes, you're looking for something quite specific. Limiting your search to full-view books is just one of the Advanced Search options we've developed to help you find what you're looking for. Here's a brief tour through some of the others.
  • Say you loved Fahrenheit 451 in high school, and you're looking for other novels or short stories by the incomparable Ray Bradbury. Try searching by author.

  • Or suppose you're trying to track down Scott Westerfeld's great young-adult horror novel, Midnighters (and its sequel). You can easily search by title.

  • Or maybe you're an ardent supporter of small publishers like Small Beer Press, and you want to check out the latest titles. Try limiting your search to a particular publisher.

  • Or you're looking for historical perspective on current affairs, and you want to see references to Iran from the years 1500-1900. Try searching by publication date.

  • You're sure that you've heard the Google Scholar tagline, "Stand on the shoulders of giants" before? Find out if you're right by searching by exact phrase.

We hope this was helpful. If you have a question you'd like us to answer or ideas for improving Book Search, we encourage you to drop us a line and let us know. Read the full post 0 comments


New Proof of (Long Tail) Concept

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 11:58 AM

Tim O'Reilly, the founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, reported yesterday that his company has conducted a study indicating that by giving people greater access to O'Reilly books online (through Safari and Google Book Search), more potential book buyers are discovering older, out-of-print books -- something he says constitutes "compelling support for Chris Anderson's 'long tail' theory."

What's the long tail theory? The idea in the context of book publishing is that online exposure has the potential to capture what might otherwise be lost book sales. As The Economist puts it:
A real-world shop can only stock so many titles on its shelves, so it generally holds those most likely to sell, at the head of the curve: even the largest bookstore carries only around 130,000 titles. But an online store, with no limits on its shelf space, can offer a far wider range and open up new markets further down the long tail...Mr. Anderson's point is that collective demand for obscure items is very large, is growing, and can be aggregated over the internet, so that selling obscure books, music CDs or movies could prove to be just as lucrative as selling hits.

The O'Reilly study is interesting from our perspective because it suggests that Google Book Search helps publishers by helping users discover a wider range of books. O'Reilly observes that "only about 4% of all titles ever published are still being commercially exploited." The universe of books that can bring value to our lives is much, much larger than that. Already, we've been hearing inspiring stories from authors and publishers who've connected with new audiences, as well as "thank yous" from readers who've found books they would otherwise never have known existed. We hope to hear more of these stories as we make more of the vast universe of books discoverable online. Read the full post 0 comments


It takes an information ecosystem

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 9:54 AM

Librarians are our heroes. That's why we get excited when we hear stories from librarians who've used Google Book Search to find information they couldn't locate using other search tools alone:
Earlier this week our new Teen Services librarian came in with this story: She was helping a fifth-grader try to find a book for a report. She had looked in all the sections she thought were applicable in the shelves and found nothing. So she tried Google Book Search. In the end, they found a book in a section they would never otherwise have thought to look. Child: happy, staff: happy, homework: saved.

There’s no way you can predict a chain of events like that, but it’s just the kind of discovery we hoped full-text book searching would enable. It also highlights an important truth that’s often lost in the debate over making books discoverable online: search tools are only one part of a healthy information ecosystem. They're no replacement for authors, books, libraries or the trained information professionals we call librarians. Read the full post 0 comments


Eric Schmidt on Book Search

Thursday, May 11, 2006 at 10:42 AM

Back in October, Eric Schmidt wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about our vision for Book Search (previously known as Google Print). We posted the piece on the Google Blog shortly after it ran, but if you haven't had a chance to read it yet, please do! Read the full post 0 comments


Sphaeristerii in Boston

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 at 8:39 AM

The Greeks practiced it as tending to give grace and elasticity to the figure, and they erected a statue to Aristonicus for his proficiency in it.
Before there was Fenway Park, the Bambino, the Curse or its miraculous lifting, there was Aristonicus and sphaeristerii -- special departments in ancient Greek gymnasiums where men gathered for a good old-fashioned, “grace and elasticity”-enhancing ball game. Or so we learn from George V. Tuohey, author of the 1897 tome, A History of the Boston Base Ball Club –- one of the many turn-of-the-century books anyone can browse through using Google Book Search.

When Tuohey isn’t waxing eloquent on the noble roots of the sport in the ancient world, he’s painstakingly detailing its early history in the United States, including providing team pictures of the kind that inspired the first baseball cards and player biographies from the time when the Boston Red Sox were known simply as the Bostons. But while many things have changed over the past century, others remain remarkably consistent. More than a hundred years before Google created AdSense to match ads to website content, Tuohey’s publisher matched the contents of this book with ads for beer and hernia medication. Read the full post 0 comments


Welcome to Inside Google Book Search

Monday, May 08, 2006 at 11:15 AM

Last year a computer programmer named Luca Mori stumbled upon ancient ruins in the town of Sorbolo, Italy. These ruins lay buried for centuries until a Google Earth satellite photo revealed mysterious rectangular shadows in the landscape -- shadows that Mori, an archeology enthusiast, was able to identify as a Roman villa. The villa was there all along -- but it took the right person with the right search tool to find it.

Why are we telling you this story on a blog about Google Book Search? Because this project was born out of the passion for discovery. There's an extraordinary wealth of knowledge, history and culture contained in the world's books. We're inspired by the idea that with every book we index, we're building a better tool for people to find books and make these discoveries. Some will be personal, like when a reader from South Carolina found a book containing a photo of his great uncle, delighting his housebound father. Others will be more...er, esoteric, like when a blogger decided to use Book Search to find references to the phrase, "Snakes on a Plane." And others, like Luca Mori's, will unexpectedly expand the frontiers of human knowledge.

On that note, we're excited to announce Inside Google Book Search, the official Google Book Search blog. This blog is about discovery -- yours and ours. Here you'll find members of our team sharing thoughts, tips and the occasional announcement about Book Search. We intend for this to be a place not only for Book Search enthusiasts, but also book lovers of every stripe. We'll be highlighting cool books we've found, discoveries you've made, big thoughts about the future of book search and more. We hope you tune in often and tell us what you think. Read the full post 0 comments