Google Book Search: a debate among Paul Duguid, Tim O’Reilly, Danny Sullivan and Donald Waters

Screenshot of Google Book Search

Peter Brantley at the Social Sciences Research Council blogs reproduced a debate about Google Book Search that occurred in a mailing list among Paul Duguid, Tim O’Reilly, Danny Sullivan and Donald Waters.

I must admit, it wasn’t Google Book Search that caught my attention, it was the debaters:

  • Paul Duguid – I cited him heavily in my master’s thesis.
  • Tim O’Reilly – who can forget all those tech books.
  • Danny Sullivan – the founder of Search Engine Watch. I used to use Search Engine Watch to check out new search engines I come across.
  • Donald Waters is the only one I am not too familiar with. Is he a librarian? (:P)

I didn’t follow the entire conversation because I haven’t been following the development and issues surrounding the Google Book Search (GBS). Therefore, I will only highlight 2 points I found interesting.

1. Google Book Search ‘s curatorial role

Does Google Book Search have a public curatorial role? Duguid believes it should have. Although Google is an organization with private funds and private concerns, the sheer size of the GBS project makes it difficult not to hold them to some sort of public responsibility. Because they are so big, every little move they make impact so many.

GBS is probably the most promising digitization project at the moment which is why I think many are hoping that they will take the bull by the horn. But organizing, ordering, relating, annotating, tagging and managing digitized “human knowledge” is a very tall order.

2. Full-text indexing versus meta-data

Full-text indexing allows searching full-text and can pull up information quickly. Meta-data helps to expand searching into related fields and include value-added data found outside of the full-text. There were times in the past where only meta-data is available. Then came the extreme reaction: full-text indexing for everything. The problem with full-text indexing is now becoming obvious, people drowning in massive results and still unable to find what they are looking for. Meta-data does has its place.

Okay, both are important.

Emerging from Google book search