Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2004 Issue

Google’s Froogle: Is It There Yet?

Froogle

You can find millions of books through a Froogle search


By Michael Stillman

There is a way to have your listings picked up by the world's most popular and powerful search engine, and shown on one of the most heavily trafficked websites in existence. They estimate that "millions" of people go there everyday. They will even pick up listings from your own website if you wish. So what does this site charge for providing this incredible level of visibility? 8%? 15%? 20%? Guess again. The answer is nothing. Zero percent. No percentage points, no listing fees, no cost-per-click. Nothing at all.

Welcome to Froogle, the shopping search service put out by the world's most popular search engine, Google. If all of this sounds too good to be true, it isn't. Google is an odd duck. They seem to be almost entirely focused on creating better products, not on making money from them. That may sound like a formula for disaster, but in Google's case, it has worked. They have made their primary product, their search engine, better than any of their competitors', thereby generating a huge audience. While other search engines focused on ways to sell listings, or at least advertisements that looked suspiciously like listings, Google focused on providing better search results. As a result, Google became far and away the most popular search engine. When they finally did decide to draw advertising revenue from their searches, they placed the ads to the side where viewers could clearly tell they were ads, not search results. It didn’t matter. Google's reach had become so great that advertisers rushed to buy this space because Google had by far the largest audience.

On December 11, 2002, Google launched its shopping site. In Google's typical, understated style, there was no great fanfare. While there must be thousands of shopping sites out there, most claiming to be the greatest place ever to buy whatever they are selling, Google made no outrageous claims. Promotion was minimal. They called their shopping site "Froogle", a clever play on the name "Google" and "frugal", and clearly labeled it as a "beta" site. "Beta" is simply tech talk for "still under development". To this day, Froogle is still labeled a "beta" site. Nevertheless, millions of books can be found through this site. Not as many books as can be found on Abebooks, not as many as on Alibris or Amazon, and naturally not as many as the meta book searches like AddAll can find, but Froogle is a force everyone in the book business needs to watch.

You might think this race is over. With the power of Google behind it, and the unbeatable pricing offered, it's just a matter of time before Froogle will dominate online book sales. Not so fast. In time, Google became far and away the most popular search engine. However, Google accomplished this by offering a clearly superior product. That cannot be said about Froogle, at least not yet. I would bet that most of you who are reading this article regularly use Google when you want to find information on the internet. I would also bet that few of you use Froogle when you want to find a book for sale on the internet. There is a reason. To understand why Froogle has not yet become the Google of internet shopping, you need to look at what Froogle is and isn't, what it does well and what it doesn't.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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