Sunday, March 26, 2006

Experiences with Google Book Search

Over the weekend, which is one hour shorter due to European Summer time, I read the experiences on the Google Book Search program by two Dutch publishers: Brill Academic Publishers and Amsterdam University Press. The experiences were written up in Vakblad, a trade magazine for Dutch scientific and trade publishers.

Matthias Wahls, business development manager for Brill, told, that Google pays for Brill the costs in order to digitise thousands of books of the scientific publishing company. Brill Academic Publishers is a publishing house with a strong international focus and founded in 1683. The company focuses on the fields of Ancient Near East and Egypt; Middle East, Asian and Islamic Studies; Medieval and Early Modern Studies; Biblical and Religious Studies; Classical Studies; Social Sciences; Science and Biology; Human Rights and Public International Law. By digitising the books, they now can be found online with Google. Although Brill started recently with the program and cannot prove extra sales yet, the company believes that the Google route can lead to additional sales. Another extra is that the visibility of the authors.

The Amsterdam University Press, another academic publishing house, started in November 12004 with the program Google Print, now changed into Google Book Search. They started with digitising one hundred books, a small selection of the English language catalogue. It took four months before the books were available on the net. AUP can talk now about the first results. Their books are consulted roughly 200 times every month with extremes to thousand page views. The percentage of the click though to the order process is between one and two percent on average; some books score even five percent.

I got curious by this report and went to Google Book Search and typed in my name. Having contributed to several books I would like to see what would be the result. Two books came up. E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market, published by Springer, had been brought online. There were seven links. But further I could not go as I had not signed in and had a password. But I could see that the two chapters I wrote for the book were selected.

The second book was Webjournalistiek, a Belgian/Flemish book, I had not heard of. It is a book about web journalism in the Belgian context. In Google Book Search there is a link to page 172. From what I can make out from the top of the page, the link refers to a page on the Central Station project, a personal news service project from 1995/96, which started in Belgium, but did not succeed at first; now it works under the name Mediargus. I started to copy the service for the Dutch newspaper world, but the project never left the drawing table, regretably. So the link will refer to that project. It is interesting, I should buy this book.

Google Book Search seems to work and publishers look very happy. They even get sales of them, which can only increase in the future. So far they did not put in a penny themselves for the digitising and making the books available. Still I am convinced that, if they had set up a system themselves, like the German publishers are doing at present, they could have controlled their databases, offered them to Google and asked money for them.


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