Stephen Wildstrom has an interesting article in the 7/25/05 issue of BusinessWeek called The Web Hits the Stacks. He talks about Yahoo! and Google’s efforts to digitize the large number of reference works found at your local library. This brings up an interesting debate with publishers and authors alike: Just how much commercially published content should be freely accessible via search engines?
Amazon’s Search Inside the Book program was launched in October 2003. Although not a lot has been said about the program recently, Amazon generally says that they’re likely to sell more copies of a book in the program than if it’s not in the program. As a publisher, I see the benefits Search Inside the Book offers. For my money, the most important benefit is that it gives the online shopper the ability to browse the book, which is something you take for granted in the brick-and-mortar experience. Once you find the book with the right mix of content you’re looking for, the hope is that you’ll hit the “Buy” button and make a purchase.
How does this compare to the Google Print model? As with Google’s core search tool, the interface is great: clean and efficient, just what you’d expect from Google. But when I go to Google, or even think of Google, I’m not really in a buying state of mind. I’m there to get information, hopefully enough information to solve whatever problem I’ve got. I’ve bought loads of books from Amazon. On the other hand, I don’t think any of the thousands and thousands of visits I’ve made to the various Google properties has directly resulted in a sale.
Based on this personal experience and bias, I’m not that enthusiastic about putting my books into the Google Print program. What’s your opinion? Am I being too narrow-minded or is it right to question the risk-reward relationship with Google Print?