Google’s Book Search Reviewed

Peter Jacso is a Professor of Information Science and a very thorough and perceptive critic of information services especially in the research library context.

He has just produced a thoroughly devastating review of Google Book Search, which suggests that the Google plan to create an archive of all published literature is wildly off-beam. Jacso gives many examples of absurd results from the GBS service, Even with simple searches, there is enough confusion because of the ignorance, illiteracy and innumeracy of the software…….. Read the piece. Jacso knows what he is talking about when he examines the way Boolean searches work with Google — disastrously and wrongly. Google prides itself on its technical proficiency but the nonsensical un-numerical and illogical results produced from the Book Search service merit public explanation and prompt repair.

If the Google Book Search project is poorly implemented that is going to be a disappointment to the publishers and libraries who have supported the project, but is there perhaps a deeper problem? Jacso mentions but does not dwell on Google’s unwillingness to document its activities. Is Google working on an assumption that simply feeding stuff into its search engine is all that is required? And that Page Rank will do the rest — in effect that the pattern of citations and user behaviour will provide the necessary order to make a useable resource?

Could this disdainful neglect of catalog(ue)s, lists and the public bibliographic record be simply a matter of hubris based on excessive faith in Page Rank? One would hope not.