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An odyssey through Google Books

May 31, 2008 |  2:00 pm

Google at BEA

Google doesn't have a booth on the sprawling, endless concourse of the BEA. They're just upstairs in the South Hall, past the press room; the last door before an enormous window that peers over an empty corner of the Convention Center. Inside are several tables and a dozen or so Google-folk, waiting for their respective appointments with 'publishing partners.'

The way it's working these days is that Google has three ways of obtaining books. They can go through their system of colleges and public libraries (the New York Public Library being perhaps the largest). Or they have the publishers come to them. Or they can go get the publishers. "We're taking a proactive approach," said Tom Turvey, the director of Google Book Search Partnerships, in regards to Google's attempt to reach out to the publishing world.

Not wanting to be seen as brutish democratizers of authors' material, Google is selling their search engine through keywords like "marketability" and "exposure." The mission is to encourage publishers small and large alike that working with Google, and having said books more easily accessed through their visual cataloging of every page, will be to everyone's benefit: author and seller.

As it stands, there are millions of titles available through Google's book search. A quick scan brings up options as varied as H.G. Wells' "In the Days of the Comet," Martin McDonagh's play "The Cripple of Inishmaan" and McGraw-Hill's GED Study Program. And there they are. You can read them as fast as your internet connection will allow. Sound like a good thing? It probably is.

And of course, there are many more titles to come. Last week's decision by Microsoft to kill further development of their book search engine has left the gates wide open for the colorfully lettered internet giant, whose slogan, now quoted less often, is "Don't be evil."

George Ducker

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