At Slate, Paul Collins points out that Google Book Search heralds a new era of outing plagiarists. The searchable database of many thousands of books is a boon to researchers, but it also greatly eases the discovery of co-opted passages. Collins mentions a couple of examples and posits that “given the popularity of plagiarism-seeking software services for academics, it may be only a matter of time before some enterprising scholar yokes Google Book Search and plagiarism-detection software together into a massive literary dragnet, scooping out hundreds of years’ worth of plagiarists – giants and forgotten hacks alike – who have all escaped detection until now.” He also predicts that “in the next decade at least one major literary work [will get] busted.”
Using the words "advertising" and "books" in the same sentence seems to cause panic among fans of literature. Recall when Nigel Newton, chief executive of Bloomsbury Publishing, lashed out at Google Books for the "predation" of their "silly ads" over a year ago. In the intervening time, our favorite works of literature have not been overrun by ads, but some publishers, aware of the value of their Web presence, have begun to experiment with advertising, according to the Wall Street Journal.The WSJ article takes Frommers.com as a case study. The travel imprint of John Wiley & Sons drew at least 728,000 unique visitors in May and, along with the Web sites for its Dummies do-it-yourself series and CliffsNotes educational books, brings in $10 million to $15 million annually.For publishers of reference books, guides, and manuals, the compatibility with advertising is pretty obvious. After all, newspapers and magazines have loads of this sort of content - particularly in the form of reviews of films, music, restaurants, travel destinations, etc. - and they do quite well selling advertising against it. With loads of original content, there's no reason why a site like Frommers.com shouldn't experiment with making more of that content free to readers and ad supported.Moving away from the more utilitarian publishing categories, however, the questions become a bit more challenging, a fact that I think is betrayed by the confused identity of many publisher Web sites. Typically they offer what seems to be a hybrid of a catalog and original content, though neither end up being terribly useful. On the Web, people want access to all the available information. Why would readers browse for a book on the HarperCollins Web site when they could go to Amazon or Google Books (or even the library) and see everything that's available on a particular topic. Likewise, there is plenty of free, ad supported, quality original content available online from magazines and newspapers.While selling ads against an excerpt from the latest Philip Roth novel is not likely to be a winning proposition (though the New Yorker manages just fine), publishers could ratchet up their original content offerings in order to promote their own products as well as to bring in ad revenue and highlight their brands.Publishers have dabbled in this sort of thing before. Random House once had an online literary magazine called Boldtype, but cut it loose in 2003, and the site has enjoyed a second life as a part of the Flavorpill Network of sites. Bold Type in its current incarnation may not be the perfect model for publishers looking to create a new revenue stream on the Web, but the point for publishers to remember, I think, is that they are purveyors of content, and with a little creativity publishers could easily extend their expertise in this area to the Web.
Paidcontent.com pointed out that the New Yorker has unveiled a new digital edition of the magazine. It's basically a replica of the magazine -- ads, cartoons, and everything -- that you can "page through" using a special interface. This is pretty nifty and probably useful for New Yorker obsessives who want to get the full New Yorker experience at work without having the magazine in plain view, but what's really cool is that if you sign up, you get every issue going all the way back to 1925 in this format. In addition, you get the digital edition first thing on Monday, so you don't have to wait until Wednesday or Thursday for the magazine to show up in the mail.Subscribers can set it up here. It's a little confusing. Once you've logged in, there's a link at the lower right to activate the digital edition site. You need to go through a couple more prompts (they email you a password) and then you have full access. Non-subscribers can try it out free for four weeks here.
You may have heard. Google has just launched a service called Google Print. Like Amazon, Google's service allows people to search through books. Google announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair that are adding a lot of major publishers and they will be adding many titles. As with Amazon, there is a limit to how many pages you can view. And, at this stage anyway, it's not possible to search the book database exclusively. I've found that the best way to get a Google Print result to show up is to type the word "book" and then whatever it is you're searching for. It'll be interesting to see if this develops further.
In the midst of all the controversy surrounding digitizing the world's books did you ever stop to wonder how all these books are getting scanned? It turns out it's just regular folks making a few bucks an hour sidled up to some high-tech scanning machines. The job doesn't sound half bad, actually. Here's a profile of one book scanner in Toronto from the Wall Street Journal.(via)