Monday, June 22, 2009

Google Books and New Features

Google Books recently added some additional features to their site, that purport to make the site much better to use and more useful. The new features, as listed in a blog post, include the following:

1. Embeds and links
2. Better search within each book
3. Thumbnail view
4. Contents drop-down menu
5. Plain Text Mode
6. Page Turn Button and Animation
7. Improved Book Overview Page

This is all very useful, and in fact the availability of books, whether in limited or full form, is a great benefit since in many a case just being able to read a few pages from a book can make the difference between spending good money on a great book and on one that makes you feel you could have spent that money on a different book, or waited for a cheaper edition, or maybe not bought the book at all. Sometimes the ability to see and read a specific passage from a book is also important if you are engaged in some research work or need to have confidence in a reference you are citing. Always check back with the primary source. Just as you have news sites and blogs and more that routinely embed maps into their pages using Google's Map API or simple URL and iFrame based linking feature, the feature to embed book pages and passages may also become popular enough, though there are alternatives available here - you can simply type in a line of two that you want to quote.

But, what I would like very much is to combine the book scanning exercise of Google with the combined knowledge of a million minds from The wisdom of a million strong crowd on Amazon lends an aggregate wisdom that is difficult to recreate, anywhere, I believe. Amazon has an almost infinite wealth of information on reviews that readers have written, browsing and purchase patterns, navigation paths followed, trending information on books sales and sales rankings, topics, categories, and almost on every aspect of a user's behavior while online on the site that they have an erected an almost insurmountable barrier for others to surpass.

Google and Amazon are fierce competitors in the making, even if they or others do not realize it yet, more so than Google and Microsoft or any other company. And both Google and Amazon are so powerful that they are scaring off a lot of players into the other's arms or into a wholly separate direction. Amazon's Kindle reader has book publishers more than a little worried about the monopolistic hold it could obtain over the e-book format while at the same time interjecting itself in-between the customer and the book publisher. Google's book scanning project and its deal with authors has the US government scrutinizing the deal, and Google's massive impact and presence on the internet has almost everyone else worried.

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.