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Google Book Search talk in Mainz, Germany

Mathias Schindler [PersonRank 10]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007
11 years ago6,662 views

these are my notes from a talk today at the University of Mainz in Germany with Jens Redmer, director EMEA of GBS. These notes are not checked for typos and redundancies. They are also not "cleaned" for the worst comments and so on.....

Version: 0.1 – 14:18 CET, January 30, 2007

There was a talk by Jens Redmer, Director of Google Book Search Europe, Africa at the Gutenberg University of Mainz about the Google Book Search (the book industry shaking project formerly known as Google Print) Project. I missed the talk from Mr. Br├╝ggemann last week about the "Volltextsuche Online" (VTO) project, which is still in its implementation phase, several announcements of its start passed without anything happening. VTO is done by the German national association of publishers and book shops ("B├Ârsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels") and is meant as a direct answer to Google Book Search and Amazon Search Inside.

There were about 100 people attending, some of them were clearly not students. A camera team from the SWR (state television) was present but I did not see any recording of the whole talk.

Jens spoke in German, his slides were English and the beamer device was clearly misconfigured, the content was almost impossible to read from any position. So, basically, it was a stock presentation, Jens skipped several slides and apologized for having to explain the Google web search to us (slide one). According to him, Google Book Search is the most controversial project Google has done. It is also most-discussed, maybe only surpassed via Google Earth. GBS has resultet in an intensive media coverage, mostly focussing on the fears of the traditional book publishers (I would not dispute that). He said that due to the digitalisation, whole markets are transformed. The book industry does not want to repeat the mistakes of the music industry, although he is not so sure about what these mistakes were. Nobody wants to dothe mistakes of the newspaper and magazine industry eighter. He worked at the Axel Springer publishing house and the questions today related to books are more or less the same than the ones the newspapers tried to answer 10 years ago.

By the way, does anyone know what kind of programme "cricket internal" is. When he bootet his Apple Windows XP machine, I saw that programm pop up. I haven't seen Platypus :)

He said that the publishing industry is rather slow in developing, companies like google are much faster. They try to bring both worlds together. In his opinion, there are large misconceptions about what google does. Many statements are biased, half-true and something like "a large US company enters the field, digitalizes everything and makes it completely accessible for everyone. This would be a horror vision". I am not sure if this is company policy, the special circumstances when talking to publishers and scientists of book science, but he insisted several times that GBS is merely a card catalog: "This is not about making everything readable".

The following slide were more general again: A large share of information (German term: "Wissen", could be translated as knowlege) is still in print. There is roughly 5% online today. People think that something that is not on google dos not exist, which brings a responsibility to Google.

Next slide (text was illegible as usual): Google today: World's largest search index, serves 60% of the world's search queries. 1000 partners, 10.000 employees (last public figure I am aware of 9.000-something), 2000 of them in Germany (no figure available to me, appears rather high). Several dozends of offices world-wide, projects in about 100 languages.

Jens: "As an american company, we also have a mission: To index the information of this world and to make it useful" (See, nothing about making it accessible :) Just like habeas corpus is not included in the US constitution)

Jens: The world's information is expaning, still mostly offline.

Next slide: How Search Works.

He did not really cover that topic but rather explained how a standard google SERP looks like (no onebox, no special content, just the "organic search results" in the left and the "paid search ads" in the right column. According to Jens, they do get daily requests from companies to rank them higher in their search results.

The first time I was about to cry was when he claimed that the Adwords do "always fit". Hasn't he ever seen that "Buy Weapons of Mass destruction at Ebay" madness? (Agreed, this is just about what the sponsor wants to have, he pays for this).

Next slide: "Changing State of Content Landscape"

basic summary: It changes.

Next slide: How computers get better

Since 1982:
Computing power: gone up factor 3500
Memory prices: gone down by factor 45.000
Hard disc prices: gone down by factor 3.600.000

In 2012, we will have computers by the size of the current iPods which can store all of the music videos ever produced (By 2012, copyright violations will be punished by the death penalty...)

Okay, repeating what he said might be something that groklaw does quite good. However, I would have won a 6x6 bullshit bingo by then. Sorry, for that blunt language. His slides are surely entertaining to some people and I am sure that there are people outside who haven't seen comparisons like "if gasoline efficiency would have developed like the computers since 1982, one liter of gasoline would now bring us 500 times around the world". If someone really wants to hear about that, there could be a similar stock presentation online.

Okay, I will now skip to the parts that were interesting to me.

Jens (speaking about GBS in general): "There is no evil masterplan behind Google Book search. There is not a single business plan behind it, it is a strategic investment. We want to improve the quality and relevancy of the search results. Fullstop. Everything else follows long after"

One slide was about what's currently inside the libraries. 5% of the books there are currently in print. Less than 20% are in public domain. 75% were marked as "unclear copyright status". This is heavy stuff and I am not sure if this is just improper wording: Just because a publishing house does not sell a book any more, it does not mean that the copyright status has changed. Of course, one could argue that it was not the intention of copyright to prevent others from using a book even if the original publisher / author does not use it at all. I think that this debate should happen but I would like to know if Jens really wanted to say it that way. It would be a most pleasant surprise.

He then mentioned the lawsuits in the US. According to Jens, the 5 publishers who are suing Google Book search for their Library Project are all partners of Google in the Google Book Search project for publishers, some of them have increased the numbers of books in that project since the lawsuit started.

Apart from the "this is just a card catalog" argument, he mentioned several times the "best intentions" argument. Google just wants to help bringing consumers and publishers together. IMHO, this sounds nice the first time you hear it, but it really damages the ability of every company to shoot themselves in the foot whenever they want and how long they want. Talking of the advantages of GBS to publishes is fine, using it as an argument why it should be legal or at least less illegal than it is according to some publishers is creating a rather nasty nanny-attitude. (NB: he said several times correctly that all the lawsuits are not about the PD worksm not about the Partner Programm but about scanning non-PD works and mentioning them and a snippet of a search term.

The last slide was about "the future of the book"

4 Changes:

* Creating the content will change
* Consuming will change
* The economy of book publishing will change
* Most important: The Discoverability will change.

There was a Q&A afterwards, I got the second question. So far, two other Googlers failed to answer me this question to I tried to do it the third time:

Question: Does google think that it gets any kind of copyrights on digitalizations of PD works?
If yes: What laws are granting them these rights?
If no: Why does google restrict other people from using the content?

I then said that I am talking about works that are clearly PD in any juristiction, my wording caused a laughter because I mentioned something "the author is dead enough for a work to become PD". So he answered that determining PD is really a problem and several laws have different concepts (X years after publication, Y years after the death of an author, Z years of the death of the longest living author if it is a collaborative work). I then said that he did not answer my question. I repeated it and he said something like a moral argument (with the disclaimer that he is not a lawyer): They do the work of scanning, so they do not want competitors to use their work. He failed to mention a single law that would grant them copyrights when "merely" scanning a PD work. *Sigh*

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Side note:
cricket = google talk

Very interesting read!

Tim [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

'but he insisted several times that GBS is merely a card catalog: "This is not about making everything readable".'

This card catalog analogy has got to be the lamest excuse I have heard, and yet they continue to use it all the time.

What if I were to make full copy scans of books, or music, or DVDs, and then put an index of my collection up on the web, allowing people to search for a couple of keywords but then not see the original work. Does that then make it ok for me to copy something that does not belong to me, in the first place?

Go Google! I hope you're right.. that means I am never going to have to buy any more media, ever. I'll just make a bootleg copy of it, then put it in a card catalog on the web.

WoW!ter [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

Thanks for sharing this information.

Mathias Schindler [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

[put at-character here]WoW!ter: thanks for reading it :)

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