Google transformed the web by helping users to wade through volumes of information. We embraced Google’s web search because it made a difference to our search. But its book search has encountered some criticism.
As someone who produces copyrighted material every day, I understand and appreciate those who want to protect their data and potential income sources. However, I think that some of the criticism is unfair. Today I was searching through Amazon for a book I wanted to buy. I stumbled across a different book by a different author on the same topic. Books on this topic are a dime a dozen (and of varying quality) so I wouldn’t just buy it because Amazon presented it. I viewed the table of contents but that didn’t help. So I jumped over to Google Book Search. I found the book, jumped to a section in the book that I was most interested in and skimmed 25 pages.
… and then I bought the book.
Skimming the pertinent section of the book was enough for me to know. I realize that part of the concern by publishers and authors is that I’ll know the “secret recipe” and won’t need to buy the book. That is a danger (but I think it puts the onus on the author to deliver high quality content consistently through the book).
Note to publishers: Readers don’t buy books based on the cover. (Okay, some do but they shouldn’t). The people who will become your most satisfied customers will buy a book becasue they read part of it and wanted to read all of it. Or, because they read it and want to read it again at their convenience. The table of contents is helpful, but not always sufficient. You will always have readers who read your book and don’t buy it (which is why I can never find a chair at Chapters) but many people will read a book and still buy it anyway. In other words, you are selling information but you’re also selling convenience and accessibility that is available only in a paper book.