Thursday, February 1, 2007

Google: "Books are Not Part of a Network."

There's an interesting article about the Google Book project ("Google's Moon Shot: The Quest for the Universal Library") in the current New Yorker. It offers insight into Google's relationships with publishers and libraries and into some of the issues of copyright and competition. But it also includes this curious quote from Dan Clancy, identified as the chief engineer in Google’s system for scanning books in library collections:
“The scanning technology is boring,” Clancy said. “The real challenge is to get somebody something that they are actually interested in, inside a book. Web sites [my emphasis] are part of a network, and that’s a significant part of how we rank sites in our search—how much other sites refer to the others.” But, he added, “Books are not part of a network. There is a huge research challenge, to understand the relationship between books.”
Except, of course, that books are part of a network, and the relationship between them, in the sense of one referring to another in the way that Web sites do, is not so hard to understand. It may not be easy to parse those references when they're not in the form of http links, but the challenge should not be, as Clancy puts it, "to understand the relationship between books" but to draw on that relationship to get people to sources they'll find useful.

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