Thursday, January 28, 2010

Google Book Search - a personal experience

I have naturally been excited at the prospect of having all, (well, almost all) of the world's books scanned and made full text search searchable, with Google-level smarts in them.

I was kind of indifferent to the legal battle going on (go here for an update on that).

A few days ago, I had a profoundly useful experience with Google Books. I came across a solution to a problem I have been tackling (for a little hobby of mine) for a long time now. I had searched long and hard for it when I was actively working on it, but couldn't make much progress.

And then, a few days ago, when I gave it another shot, ~70% of the solution turned up in a book in Google Books. I had a look at the book title and author, and voila, a copy of it was available in my university library.

I had long thought that perhaps nobody had tried to tackle this before so a lot of heavy lifting would have to be done. But Google Books saved the day.

Which is why now I am *strongly* in favor of allowing the proposed deal to go through. I urge all the concerned decision makers to let this this wonderful thing happen. Newton stood on the shoulders of giants. Over the last ~350 years, we have accumulated the knowledge and the technology to let even folks like me stand on Mount Everest of human knowledge and make useful contributions, in whatever small way.

As for the various concerns, I have just one thing to say. Google made all the investment in technology, money, risk and effort. They have every right to milk it fwiw. However, I have just one quib. If exclusivity granted to Google were junked, it would be a Great Leap Forward for the entire humanity. In a really good way. After all, all of us stand to gain from the competition between search engines.

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