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Google Book Search: It's All About the Index

Adam Hodgkin says the grand design of Google Book Search is aimed at creating a massive index, not an all-encompassing, locked-down reading system. From Exact Editions:

Some of Google’s critics suppose that the aim of the GBS [Google Book Search] project is to capture, corale [sic] and deliver to readers the whole of the world’s literature in a readable format. But perhaps the business goal has all along been to produce a complete searchable index of literature, not the monopolistic reading medium. [Bold text included in original post.]

Google’s initiatives have always focused on the creation and expansion of digital content platforms rather than individual content products. The public’s mistaken focus on Google products — rather than Google platforms — was noted in Wired’s recent story about Google’s mobile project, Android:

Those hoping for a new gadget to rival the iPhone finally understood that Google had something radically different in mind. Apple’s device was an end in itself — a self-contained, jewel-like masterpiece locked in a sleek protective shell. Android was a means, a seed intended to grow an entire new wireless family tree. Google was never in the hardware business. There would be no gPhone — instead, there would be hundreds of gPhones.

I can understand where the confusion comes from: The creation of a gargantuan reading service seems to be in Google’s wheelhouse because they’re one of the few companies that can actually attempt such a project. But as we learned with Android, Google isn’t a product-centric company — all those individual tools and services plug into bigger platforms. Development of a searchable full-text book index that can be distributed across all sorts of devices is more in line with Google’s history and its focus.

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