With Microsoft announcing plans to jump ship on its Live Search Books and Live Search Academic last week, industry watchers are turning to Google to see what the company's next move is.
Google's Book Search, the company's project to digitize canons of classic and popular novels and research textbooks and make them searchable online, is geared to help not just students, researchers and life-long scholars but anyone looking to use the Web to quickly find content from all kinds of books.
This effort is as broad as it is ambitious given the number of books published over the course of history, not to mention the variety of languages in which they are composed.
But is Google still committed to its Book Search project? The company has been quiet about it of late. Absolutely, a spokesperson assured eWEEK.
"Our aim is to bring more human knowledge onto the Web to help our users search and discover all the world's books, especially books that are difficult to find any other way," the spokesperson said.
"With more than 28 library partners and 10,000 publisher partners worldwide, in the not-too-distant future, extraordinary collections will be available to all via a comprehensive index, every word of which is searchable by anyone on Earth, in any language."
Get Moving, Google
Fine, but now that Microsoft has given up the ghost on book search, the smart strategy would be for Google to advance its effort from the "not-too-distant future" to the present. Google can pretty much corner the market at this point.
Google was asked by eWEEK when it could expect to see some Book Search results, but the spokesperson declined to comment. The plot thickens when we consider that Google late last year scheduled a Book Search event, but then abruptly canceled it due to "scheduling" issues.
Hmmm. Were these personnel scheduling issues, or the kind of wow-this-project-is-tougher-to-swallow-than-we-expected scheduling issues?
Where Book Search is concerned, speed can take a back seat to accuracy and comprehensiveness because Google clearly isn't counting on this niche to be a huge moneymaker in the early going, though the company will no doubt find ways to run ads about publishers' new releases alongside the results.
As Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan told eWEEK: "I doubt book search will be a big money maker any time soon. But Google went into it thinking it was an important long-term project, so I expect they'll hang with it."
Google's Big Task
Daunting tasks of lining up the right algorithms to index voluminous collections of texts aside, the logical area for innovation in book search lies in socialization. Google is already working on this.
The company last September launched its My Library feature, which allows users to create a customized online library that can be shared with others.
Users organize and annotate digital book collections and share them with friends through a URL or as an iGoogle gadget. There is also a clip-sharing feature.
Google Book Search does have content, or you can do a search to see if your local library has what you're looking for.
eWEEK installed the My Google Book Search Library gadget and was able to access texts for a couple pretty disparate books, Jane Austen's literary classic "Pride and Prejudice," and Chuck Palahniuk's cult classic "Fight Club."
Google may be quiet on the Book Search front, but clearly there is work being done behind the scenes.