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Google Experiment Provides Internet With Book Excerpts

Of possible interest...

New York Times, 12/18/03

Google Experiment Provides Internet With Book Excerpts


SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 17:  Google, the Internet search engine, has begun an
experiment with book publishers in which the contents of the first
chapters of books, reviews or other bibliographic information is indexed
and made available to Web surfers.

Although the experiment, called Google Print, was begun quietly earlier
this month, the company described its test on Wednesday in general terms
after Google users began noticing the content in their information
searches. Google executives were quick to point out that the company now
considers the service to be a test, or "beta," version, and it is not
generating revenue from either the search information or from ads or other
related information that appear on the retrieved pages.

"Google Print is consistent with what we've been doing since Google first
started," said Susan Wojcicki, the company's director of product
management. The company is still reviewing how the service might generate
revenue, she added.

"We believe one of the ways we can offer a better experience for our users
is to crawl a richer set of information," she said. "Reaching out to
publishers is just another way we are trying to improve our user

While the service does not index or provide the full text of books, the
company said it was talking about the idea of being the host of electronic
texts for publishers.

The new Google service parallels in some ways a similar feature that
Amazon.com began offering in late October called Search Inside the Book.
It enables customers to find books by searching and previewing the content
from more than 120,000 books.

The Amazon search capability had led to industry speculation that Amazon
might increasingly compete with Google as a general search provider.
Google said on Wednesday, however, that Amazon was a partner and that the
results page of Google Print directs Google users to three companies:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com and Books-a-Million.

"Google has a partnership with Amazon for both search and for Web search,"
Ms. Wojcicki said. "The general idea behind Google Print comes from our
company mission, which is to provide access to all the world's information
and make it universally useful and accessible."

Google executives would not disclose how many book excerpts and reviews
were now available nor how many publishers the company was working with.
The company also said it did not know how long the experiment would last.

When books are matched during a search, the reference is preceded by the
phrase "Book Beta."

"I think there's general interest from the publishers," Ms. Wojcicki said.
"We're still trying to figure out what the right solution is for them."

In recent years, book publishers have been increasingly concerned about
the potential perils of online publishing, which conceivably makes
Napster-style sharing of texts and piracy simple.

Google officials said that they were familiar with the concerns but that
they had made no decisions on what a final Google Print service might look

Publishers have supplied the electronic data for the initial experiment,
the company said. Google does, however, have experience with scanning
printed information to permit storing it in electronic form. A
two-year-old experiment called catalogs.google.com has scanned and posted
online a large number of mail-order catalogs.

Google executives have also discussed with university librarians the
possibility of converting library collections into a digital format but
they have declined to comment on any plans.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company