Google Book Search announced some new features today, making it easier to find and share the content you’re looking for in the search giant’s archive of scanned books and magazines. It’s clear that Book Search is moving away from being just a landing site for reading to become more of a tool that brings the content in books to the rest of the web.
The problem with Book Search for me is that I haven’t found much need for book-based research in post-collegiate life, and no matter how much Google tweaks the interface, it’s still a clunkier reading experience than a physical book, or a Kindle if you like. (I have a better chance of reading content on Book Search’s mobile site.) But I do read (and even occasionally contribute to) plenty of book blogs, so the new tool allowing users to embed a preview of a book or, even better, a specific page in the book, sounds like a promising way to show an online audience a specific book or passage that you’re writing about. As before, it only works for books that can be read in their entirety on Book Search, or whose publishers have made deals with Google.
The blog post outlining the feature compares embeddable Book Search previews to YouTube, though in some cases the comparison is a bit silly — with YouTube, a viewer can watch a whole video and get plenty of value without ever visiting the site. In some cases, like the example in the post, the Book Search preview is just a small image linking to a page in Book Search, so it doesn’t stand on its own. In the case of the copy of The War of the Worlds embedded below, however, it’s the entire book, which is pretty darn cool. And the YouTube analogy underlines the idea that much of Book Search’s potential lies outside the site itself. The ability ‘Share a Clip’ from a book is another example of this idea.
Other new features include thumbnail views, improved search and a drop-down table of contents that takes readers to the relevant portion of a book without them having to scroll.