Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Revolution in the world of books?

I've put a question mark at the end of my title, because I really don't know with certainty what's likely to happen in the near future. Meanwhile, I urge you to take a look at the present state of the Google Book Search service. To do so, pull down the Google menu labeled more and choose the Books item.

[Alternatively, you can simply click the above banner.]

It's a surprising service. Google seems to be aware of the existence of a vast quantity of published books, both ancient and modern. But don't expect to be able to download many of them, because either they're under copyright, or maybe they haven't been fully scanned yet, or there's some other reason preventing their downloading. I have the impression that what we see today provides us with no more than a taste of what's to come. It's all rather complicated, because Google is obliged to come to terms with the two great poles of the book industry: publishers and authors.

The current state of this confrontation is well described in the celebrated TidBITS website, which provides Macintosh-oriented news. Click the banner to display an excellent in-depth article on this subject by Glenn Fleishman. The article is so full of pertinent information that you might decide to print it out, as I've just done.

I have the feeling that Google might be about to revolutionize many aspects of the conventional book world. Then there's all the current talk about electronic books...

Open Google Book Search and type in "william skyvington". You'll discover that Google is convinced that I've written a book about contemporary Iran. This is really quite hilarious, because I know almost nothing about Iran. I've never been there, and I've certainly never written a book about Iran. As I've already pointed out, I've known for some time that the true author of this book on Iran happens to be the fellow who once published my book on Great Britain. For reasons I ignore, something got short-circuited when Google was examining the books published by the French Jeune Afrique company, and they decided that I was the author of two books, not just one. So, even Google can make mistakes, but the gigantic company is such a behemoth that I have no idea how to go about correcting this silly error.

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