Thursday, December 11, 2008

Google Books (and Magazines)

I had a wry chuckle on noticing the form of the url's that Google is using in its magazine service. They are something like this: (http) // which is more or less gobbledeygook because it doesnt need to be anything else. But the chuckle was over the way that Google give magazines a 'book' id.... Our system is not too dissimilar and having worked from 'magazines' towards books, we were until a week ago putting a 'magazine' moniker in the url for the books. We must have had a thorough parse and replace, spring-clean, of all our code, because we now label book pages and magazine pages in a neutral style. This is a small 'presentational' issue, nothing really hangs on the fact that a 'magazine' url looks a bit odd with book id's in it, or vice versa, but I will not be surprised to see Google evolve their nomenclature, both in the code and in the way they characterise the service. Perhaps, when they have a good archive of newspapers and magazines, they will change the name back to Google Print?

Since the Exact Editions architecture and our method of presenting books and magazines is very similar to Google's in Google Book Search, some people ask us whether we are worried by having a model and a business proposition that could be 'blown out of the water' by GBS. Maybe we should be more worried than we are, but here are some of the reasons why not:

  • Any web-based business could be blown out of the water by Google. Being Google-incompatible is not a good choice. Having a completely contrary model for book/magazine representation to Google is a far worse place to be in at the moment.
  • Google is not going to be a monopoly distribution route for books, magazines and other titles, because its not too difficult to distribute digital books in that way. Its just hard to do it well. Google Book Search will certainly not be the only distribution game in town.
  • Google is not going to be a preferred commercial distribution partner for many publishers because their commercial terms are quite stiff: 37% is a significant margin chunk to allocate to a distribution partner. Premium content will often not want to go that way
  • Google is going to be used by everybody. Google Book Search should be used by everybody, that does not mean that publishers will not want to control their own markets and manage their own quality of service. Alternative distribution is an 'and' choice, not an exclusive 'or'. Google will accept that, and Google would be, should be, very worried at the prospect of becoming an exclusive or sole distribution resource for digital content.
There are a few more reasons for not being too worried about Google competition, which is a fact of life but not a death-ray, but those are enough to be getting along with.

No comments: