Charles Petzold

Google Books Just Can't Get It Right

September 26, 2007
New York, N.Y.

Google Book Search has a new front page that is heading in such a completely wrong direction that I can only conclude that the problems I cited in 1, 2, 3, 4 recent blog entries are unfixable. They've gone to a "featured books" layout with categories much like a chain bookstore. Have they now given up any pretense that this is a library?

The Inside Google Book Search blog entry announcing this new home page begins: "Every time I go into a bookstore or library, I go straight to the sports section, to check out the newest books on running." I'm sure this is a perfectly honest statement — except possibly for the "or library" part — but what relevance does it have to a repository of mostly old books and periodicals?

Instead of locating the newest books on running, what if someone wants to use Google Book Search to research some of the oldest books and magazine articles on running? Searches based on date are potentially the most powerful aspect of a repository such as Google Book Search.

For example, what exactly are the oldest books and magazine articles that contain the phrase "long distance running"?

In theory, executing that search and getting something meaningful back should be a snap. But try it yourself.