Google's No. 1 goal is to organize the world's information and make it easily searchable online.
Considering that a whole lot of the world's information can be found in books, the company sees book search as a big step on the path to fulfilling the primary goal, in spite of uneasiness from some publishers that resist having their works on the Web for everyone to see gratis.
Today, Google is opening its Book Search door up to retailers, publishers, libraries and social networks by letting them embed books from the Google Book Search index on their own Web sites.
With just a few code snippets, those who opt to use program will be able to add a Google Preview for each book available in Book Search, allowing customers or visitors to browse 20 percent of a book without even leaving the Web site.
Moreover, Google is offering APIs to let users write apps to customize Google Book Search for their customers and visitors.
Books-A-Million, Blackwell Bookshop and The Book Depository in the United Kingdom, among others, have already enabled Google Previews. Major retailers Borders.com and Powell's Books will offer this soon.
Here's an example of a Google Preview from Blackwell Bookshop. Click on Google Preview, which works like the preview feature in Google Book Search, letting users search within the book and zoom in and out on the page.
Google said it believes these provisions will enable book publishers and authors to connect better with their intended audiences, or even find new audiences previously unavailable.
Funny how the Web changes things. While 20-plus years ago many readers such as myself were introduced to Stephen King, Robin Cook and Michael Crichton by word of mouth, readers hungry for new experiences will be able to sample new content on various Web sites.
I wish I had had this offering when I was a young adult. It would have saved me a lot of time as a mall rat, looking for books by new authors, not to mention the hours spent combing musty library shelves for the same.
Well, not really. I have a touch of nostalgia for both the book stores and libraries. But I've grown a little lazier so I'm inclined to look for things I need on the Web first, and when that fails I use the manual empirical methods of going to various stores to find what I need.
Embeddable Book Search seems to be a great service, but I could change my tune if there are any subtle advertising tie-ins I'm unaware of; I'm waiting to hear from Google on that score.
Fortunately, it won't be limited to local and chain book e-tailers.
Google Book Search is now available for online catalogs at the University of California and the University of Texas, as well as through the WorldCat.org online catalog. Moreover, the Arcadia Publishing Web site, O'Reilly, Macmillan, Apress, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Stanford University Press have incorporated preview functionality into their sites.
Here is a complete list of sites that have used Google Book Search to date. Clearly, Google has no shortage of interest in this offering.