Google's nearly year-old Google Print program is set for a huge expansion of content through the launch of a new program today allowing publishers to more easily submit material for inclusion.
"We're trying to make offline information like books searchable and available online. That's a natural next step as part of Google's mission," said Susan Wojcicki, director of product management for Google's ad syndication programs.
Google is inviting publishers large or small to provide books that will be scanned and included in the Google Print service for free. Books will be accepted if they have ISBNs and are in any form of English (US, British, Canadian, Australian -- any variant is acceptable).
A key difference is that the new program provides an automated account-based service for publishers to manage what's included in the program plus a share of ad revenues. In addition, the program scans the full-text of books, not just small excerpts.
Finding Book Content
Unlike some other Google services, Google Print has not existed as a standalone service. Instead, data from books and some magazines has been integrated in the ordinary web index. If deemed relevant, listings from a book may have appeared right alongside web listings.
The book content is now being removed from the web index (magazine content will remain). Instead, if there's relevant Google Print book content, it will show up in what Google calls a OneBox Results listing. This is a section above the regular search results where news headlines, shopping results and local results are shown (for examples, see our Google Loses Tabs In New Look article).
Unfortunately, there still won't be an easy way to do a dedicated search of just book data, in the way people can search for just images, news, shopping and other type of content on Google as listed on its site.
That may come in the future. Google promised to provide a special command in the future to help searchers find just book content. Down the line, the Google Print home page possibly could gain an actual search box. In the meantime, searchers have to resort to workarounds like the one Tara Calishain recently cooked up, described more here: Isolating Google's Printed Material in a Google Search Form.
For the time being, Google's really more focused on promoting Google Print to publishers. The goal is that in the future, when enough content has been gathered, then it will make more sense to promote the service more heavily to searchers.
"Think of this as us beginning to experiment with this content," Wojcicki said.
Amazon & Other Print Search Options
A chief rival to Google Print is Amazon's Search Inside The Book feature. That service to date seems mainly a system designed to help Amazon sell more books, by showing buyers some of the book's content. The full-text of books is indexed, through a program also inviting publishers to participate. Amazon's a9 service also taps into Search Inside The Book and provides a more direct way to hit this material.
In contrast, Google Print isn't designed to make Google money off selling books. While it carries links to online booksellers, it earns no income from these, the company said. Instead, Google Print provides new content for Google's AdSense contextual listings. The content effectively gives Google many more billboards where it can place sponsored links.
Aside from the Amazon and Google programs, there are a number of smaller programs and other methods allowing searchers to scan through the full text of books. Gary Price provided a rundown on these and more about the Amazon program in our article from last year, Amazon Debuts New Book Search Tool.
What's to prevent people from simply using Google Print to print books for free? Amazon encountered similar worries last year, when a writer's advocacy group raised concerns that it was able to print out 108 consecutive pages of a bestseller. Amazon since disabled print functionality, apparently easing those concerns.
For its part, Google has restrictions in place to prevent ordinary copying and printing of content, plus it will limit the number of pages in which searchers can go forward and backwards in a book at any one time. Publishers can also prevent the amount of content that can be viewed over a given period of time by a particular searcher.
"We want to make it clear we are doing everything we can to respect the rights of content owners," Wojcicki said.
In short, while copy in Google Print is 100 percent searchable, the books themselves are not intended to be 100 percent viewable. Searchers are really meant to be limited to the specific material related to their particular search.
Despite these protections, someone who is diligent will likely be able to overcome some or all of the restrictions. But it would be a lot of trouble and effort, making it much easier to just go to a library to copy a book there. For now, what's in place is probably going to be an effective deterrent for the vast majority of people.
Ready to enroll? Visit Google Print's publishers area to start. An application form and FAQ can be found there.
As said, you'll need an ISBN for your book, and English content only is allowed, for the moment. In addition, electronic copy submission is not yet being accepted. That means you'll need to send physical copies of your books.
"Today we're just taking the book and scanning it, but we do hope in the near future to accept digital versions as well," Wojcicki said.
How long will it take for books submitted to appear? Google didn't have a specific time frame on turnaround, though Wojcicki stressed it was something hoped to be done "quickly." Publishers can monitor the status of books submitted via their Google Print publisher account.
Will all books with ISBNs, in English and not containing illegal material, the current minimum requirements, actually get included?
"Our goal is to try and include all of them," Wojcicki said.
She added, however, that they also have to meet the type of content requirement Google already has for its AdSense program. So books with excessive profanity, about drug paraphernalia, gambling and perhaps other things potentially might be excluded. These are already excluded by the AdSense program policies for web content.
Publishers will earn a percentage of AdSense revenues, though as is the case in most AdSense deals, exactly how much they earn will be solely calculated by Google.
Beyond this, if you're the publisher of a book and sell direct, Google has a nice Buy The Book setup so that you can link directly to your own ecommerce site.
In addition to your own link, four other Buy The Book links will appear, for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booksense and Froogle. Google earns nothing off sales made by those who follow one of the first three links, it says. So why do they get included?
"They're purely the vendors we think will generate a good experience," Wojcicki said.
Amazon's an obvious choice, as is Barnes & Noble (at least for US-based searchers). Booksense has a number of relationships with independent resellers, Google says, making it a good backup choice. Finally, Froogle is seen as a catch-all way for any book vendor to potentially be represented.
Indeed, Froogle may be a great opportunity for those who carry rare or unusual titles. None of the book links other than the publisher's own (if provided) will be inventory-aware. In other words, while an Amazon link may be shown, that will happen even if Amazon does NOT carry the book.
You can imagine that for some rare or out-of-stock books, people who discover that the main book vendors don't carry a title may eventually migrate to Froogle.
That's where your merchant site can come in. It's free to submit a feed of all the products you carry to Froogle. So ensure that you are feeding all the books in your online book store, and the new Google Print program may eventually help bring in some new traffic for you.
By the way, Google doesn't earn off sales that go through Froogle, at least not directly. Those who proceed to Froogle, follow a link and buy a book somewhere don't generate a portion of the sale for Google. However, Froogle does carry Google ads. Those clicking on an ad do earn money for Google.