The Jury Is In – And It’s A Split Decision On The Google Book Search Program

The jury is in… and it’s a split decision. Split on the Google a course in miracles Search Program that is. Some people love it. Others think it’s the apocalypse. I really don’t want to get into the legal ramifications, copyright law and every other argument out there. The bottom line: From a book marketing standpoint, it’s a good thing. Why? It’s simple. People can’t buy what they don’t know about. Google Book Search lets people find a book with the topic they’re searching for and allows them to peek inside. If they like it, and want more they can buy it.

Most authors should open up their books to Google and submit them. I say “most.” There are some that should think twice. Academic books that have a low print run and have tiny markets, where there may only be hundreds or dozens of potential buyers may be better off avoiding Google Book Search. For the remaining 378,000 books published in the U.S. and U.K. in 2005, I say go for it!

And that’s the point. The world is awash in books. Bowker says 172,000 books were published in the United States, plus 206,000 published in the UK last year! How can Borders, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, your local library or anyone else effectively sell or showcase that number let alone the millions of previously printed titles? Google has created a way for author’s and publisher’s current and back-listed books to be found, read and purchased. Book marketers, authors and publishers should embrace this enthusiastically.

Are there some issues in the program? Yes, and Google in my opinion is trying to deal with them by keeping the rules and policies flexible and by reacting to the feedback and legal decisions. But they are truly trying to move the world forward and improve distribution of knowledge while still protecting copyrights and ownership of that information. Google is being bold in their efforts and should be applauded by the publishing industry and authors alike.

Obviously Google is not doing this for its health. Their motive is clearly for profit by making money offering sponsored ads the same way they make it on their regular search service. Although Google management thinks they are a bit more altruistic. “The main motive is to make search more comprehensive,” said Jen Grant of Google. “Many of the books that we include in the program do not include sponsored ads. By including the books of the world in its search engine, Google is increasing the relevancy and usefulness of search for users and connecting them to more information from more of the world’s authors and publishers.”

Authors and publishers profit since the book is linked to their respective websites. Google does not profit directly from book sales as of now. How long that will last is up for debate as they are clearly leaving money on the table. With a market cap north of $100,000,000,000 Google (GOOG) is by no means as selfless as the transcribing monks of yesteryear. But, hey, profit is a good thing.

As a book publicist the one thing that’s very clear to me is that any serious promotional campaign must make use of Google Book Search since search engines are the first step taken by people seeking information. And Google remains the leading search engine by about a 2 to 1 margin over Yahoo! (YHOO)

Here’s how it works. Go to https://books.google.com/partner/, sign up for the program. If Google determines you are eligible they will e-mail you information about your account, including instructions for shipping your book materials to Google. Eligibility requirements are that the book must have an ISBN number and must not contain illegal content. Besides English, books are accepted in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian and most European languages. Once Google receives a physical copy of your book the key portions will be scanned and indexed.

As a result, when a user conducts a search with key words related to your book, a link appears in the Google search results. Each Google Book Search result listing shows the books’ title and author, a short excerpt containing the highlighted search terms and the excerpt’s page number. This information then leads users to a Google-hosted web page on which the search terms appear along with a scanned image of your book and publisher information and links to the online booksellers handling your book.

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