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Monday, Oct 25, 2004

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A twist to the tale

L.N. Revathy

Google has launched a service that connects book readers with online booksellers for the authentic word on any subject of their choice.

IF your hobby is reading and you are passionate about your collection of books, just recall the hours spent in a library or bookstore searching for information or books to add to your collection. How many times would you have come out of the store disappointed? This could have been in the past. Today, the Internet is widely used as a communications tool and as a source of information. The strength of the Net is in information access, though not in necessarily retrieving the entire content.

But despite the easy access to information, readers are at times sceptical about information gleaned off the Web, especially if the information is from a blog or a Web site that is unaffiliated with a known entity, like a newspaper, a magazine or a company.

Because the Internet is so easy to access, it's quite likely that information seekers use the Internet more and books less. There may be a tendency for more accessible information (Web sites and blogs) to crowd out the more reliable (books and other traditional publications). Why go to the library or the bookstore when you can just log on and get some information — even if not the best — in minutes? If books, even in excerpted form, become widely available on the Internet, it could improve the quality of information available in the medium dramatically and shift the weight of information away from what is happening this instant. Search engine Google has launched a service that allows users to search the texts of books online. `Google Print', as the service is known, is a book-marketing program as opposed to an online library. It just carries links to online booksellers. Google has just started to promote the Google Print service to publishers before popularising it among searchers.

With the introduction of this service, Net surfers foresee a vivid enhancement in the range and value of information on the Web. It would help publishers sell books online, though this is something that is widely done already. Then what is new about this technology? In a way, it is a dedicated search of just book data, in the way people search for just images, news, shopping and other type of content on Google as listed on its site. By cataloguing information, the search engines like Google, MSN or Amazon make libraries available by bringing the old information into the information age. By digitising the book content, the Google Print service will make offline information searchable online. Google has categorically stated that the scanning of print books and addition to Google's search index would cost publishers nothing.

Google users can find more information on the program at Publishers can sign up online at The Google Print program has brought a significant change in the presentation of results. The old program merged retrieved book information into the general, overall display of results. Unless searchers designed search strategies to limit retrieval to book information (e.g., `searchterm inurl:isbn'), the results might not rise to a practical visibility level. All said and done, Google Print service is like going to a bookstore and browsing, but with a Google twist.

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