Stealing vs. Search – The Difference

June 11th, 2007 · 6 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Now don’t get us wrong, we think that Richard Charkin is a bright, savvy man. We would have, at one point, even suggested that he understood the difference between search and anonymity. Sigh. Let us try this one more time.

Search is not about Google — search is about making sure your customers find you.

Publishers are sitting on loads of content, more content than they realize (we do not believe that all publishers have put forth the necessary effort to inventory and catalogue all that they own). Several houses are embarking on what we like to consider brilliant moves to digitize their catalogues. We approve of this on so many levels. Setting aside our reservations about the completeness of this project, we believe that while the projects have started about ten years later than we would have liked, we’ll let that one pass for now (until we get cranky).

Let us also set aside the various issues between Google and the publishing industry. Okay, maybe not set aside. Google, as we all know, is not a content creator. It is not even a content aggregator, certain digitized media excepted. Google makes money off of advertising, particularly those little text ads that appear alongside your search results. Generally, people find the map to what they seek at Google, they take the map, and they head straight for their destination.

If they do not find what they want, they will, often, return to Google for a slightly different, hopefully more useful, map. Google is the stickiest non-sticky site on the Internet.

Here is what makes Google so useful for people: it has, over the past five or so years (Google still being a relatively young company), indexed a lot of content. It has also created pretty good algorithms (no, we don’t know) that give people pretty good search results. So good that other search engines are in a perpetual state of catch-up with Google. Still, as always, we note that when we talk about Google in this context, we include all search engines in the discussion by default.

Search is not about Google — search is about making sure your customers find you.

As the publishing industry digitizes its content, using this proprietary system and that newfangled proprietary thing, they do so realizing how absolutely important it is to make this content available. The recent Simon & Schuster rights dust-up (S&S having decided to back off for now) shows how important digital content is to these companies. Because content pays the bills, controlling access to content is a high priority for publishers.

The problem comes, you see, when control equals black box. Publishers are willing to allow Google to index some of their content, let’s simplify and say an abstract of the content, but not all. Google realizes one thing that the publishers aren’t willing to admit, accept, or acknowledge (take your pick): search criteria often random and searchers often choose results based on a sentence buried deep within a mass of text. An abstract of a book will not provide the same satisfactory results for customers than a full-text search might provide.

Think of it sort of like a digital book falling in the forest — if nobody nows what what the leaf buds contain, they’ll never hear it. Okay, you write your own analogy. We’re undercaffeinated.

Without proper, complete indexing of text, many useful books — however they are ultimately provided to the reader — will be missed. To date, the publishing industry has not proved that it can effectively implement robust search. In fact, unless they employ serious search algorithmic geniuses — a crop of individuals somehow overlooked by Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, etc — they are never going to match what is currently available. And by currently available, we mean currently used widely.

Stealing a laptop from Google might feel like getting some of your own back. It might offer a fleeting moment of satisfaction, ha! take that, you search giant who helps me to sell my product!, but it doesn’t change the facts. If the publishing industry doesn’t move to work with the search industry, their content will be left in the forest. Think about where people go first to seek information. Then ask yourself where they go next.

If anyone out there sees the general public heading for the MacMillan site as a first, second, or third choice, then maybe we’re wrong. We doubt we are.

File Under: The Future of Publishing

6 responses so far ↓

  • Martyn Daniels // Jun 11, 2007 at 10:07 am

    An interesting Blog from those great book bloggers Booksquare
    Stealing vs. Search – The Difference
    Now don’t get us wrong, we think that Richard Charkin is a bright, savvy man. We would have, at one point, even suggested that he understood the difference between search and anonymity. Sigh. Let us try this one more time. Search is not about Google — search is about making sure your customers find you. Publishers are […]
    My response
    The premise of what you say is absolutely correct, search is fundamental to discovery and our switched on lives. I don’t think anyone is in dispute here.
    What is in question is what Google and MS want to be when they grow up. If they merely want to sell ad space great no problem. If they want to sell books, which one has and the other hasn’t decided on, then that is different.
    There is also the thorny issue of the Orphan Act and potential associated ‘land grab’. The ownership of the digitised copy – is not really touched in your article.
    If rights revert or the book gets ‘lost’ in the RUC or OP list then ‘scan first and ask later’ could be a real issue.
    The problem is we are looking at the issues in a one dimensional way and anything can work when we argue in this manner. Rights are licensed not owned, there are term times there are constraints. Can authors choose to elect out if rights revert? Will Google use copy to publish albeit through a digital only format? Who will control resolution and will it remain persistent? Many questions are not answered but many assume that they know best and ‘pooh pooh’ any debate.

  • Joan Kelly // Jun 11, 2007 at 10:39 am

    This subject also makes me think about things like – if the publishing industry seems to be either failing or falling apart in terms of the times a’ changin’ and whatnot, should authors also be thinking about abandonning old fashioned ways of promoting their “content” and putting any and all PR budget $ towards new-fangledness? I hate even asking questions like this because I worry that I am the only person who didn’t know that this is already going on (in other words, that I am the only person who shot my wad on a publicist and book tour last year instead of however else I could have promoted the book). But I’m probably at maximum potential for embarrassment now anyway, so –

    Could an author, for example, put their budget towards being one of those advertisements on Google, or in some other way taking it on herself to work with the search industry so that her book doesn’t remain one of those that falls in the forrest without a ripple?

  • Karen Scott // Jun 11, 2007 at 11:29 am

    I read about Charkin’s antics with one of Google’s laptop, at BEA. I just didn’t see the point, and I thought it was utterly childish of him.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jun 11, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Martyn, you’re right that I didn’t even *begin* to discuss the issue of digital rights ownership. I have talked about it in previous posts because there are various layers of ownership (or, licensing) to consider. I am personally fascinated by the so-called “orphans” — so much stuff out there is floating in a sort of publishing netherworld.

    Google has stated that they are interested in creating a financial model — ebooks and micro-content seems to be their ideal choice. Microsoft seems to be treading the very altruistic ground. And the player most of us don’t discuss (let’s say it’s the sleeping giant) is Amazon. They are, from what I have seen, heard, and read, looking at models akin to what Google is contemplating.

    When I recently discussed the issued of Simon & Schuster and their decision (now apparently reversed) to own a work for the life of copyright rather than the traditional “in print, out of print” model, the value of digital rights was a key point. That being said, I’ve spent many long, hard years working in the motion picture industry where rights are traded like Tootsie Rolls. Sure, mistakes get made when it comes to compensating the right party for the correct rights, but there is a general spirit of cooperation and more gets into the right bucket than you expect, considering how ownership rights are sliced and diced on a worldwide basis.

    Oh yes, I could talk about this forever. Alas, Joan had a question or thought or both…

  • Kassia Krozser // Jun 11, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Okay, Joan. You’re a little tougher on the respond-to level. I’m not sure that spending money on the AdSense program would be a good use of funds for you. Though it would be interesting to see how you fit your story into a 35 character (I believe) blurb. Talk about writing tight!

    Since I happen to know that your publicist got you into some unusual, non-traditional author venues, the money was possibly well-spent. That is more for you to decide. That being said, I think that you could, still, benefit from the right kind of blog. I am presuming that you didn’t reveal *everything* in your book. And we all know that sex sells.

    This is where the fine line between personal and professional blogging comes into play. As I often note — mostly from personal experience — very few of us lead lives worth reading about on a daily basis. Some of us, namely you, have held interesting jobs that are rife with stories and life lessons. In some ways, you could remix your experience in a way that highlights your writing while establishing your expertise; heck, you could even look into working with an online service that matches experts with people who are writing articles, etc on specific topics. Being quoted in various publications (with name of book in a prominent place) is a very good thing.

    And remember, I am not a professional marketer, but I do play one on this blog!

  • Joan Kelly // Jun 12, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks, Kassia.

    And I’m more thinking about what to eventually do with the book I’m working on now, which is closer to my heart than I Was A Thirty Year Old Paid Pervert. (And I do think Kim did a good job as my publicist, I just don’t know that my book tour, for instance, which cost me a lot of dough, was the most efficient way I could have spent that dough. This feeling/question is fueled by having received my most recent sales/royalty/whateverit’scalled statement from the publisher. Ahem.)

    That said, thanks for the kind words about the potential for me to have a not-boring blog about my life and whatnot.

    And it’s fair to note that maybe I dropped the ball a while back, as concerns promoting that first book. I heard from another author of a sex-related book recently, and noticed that she is self-propelling in some ways that seem to be working really well for her book.

    In any case, thanks for all your feedback and ideas. Quite helpful.