Can Google Redirect Your Customers to Another's Website?
However, when you click to the detailed description on Abe, the ISBN number is listed again, and this time, it is not a link. Google told me that it had found an ISBN, but for whatever reason, it did not convert it to an Amazon link. I think it was supposed to, and this failure was a bug in the system, rather than deference to Abe sellers. I use an Apple computer with the Firefox browser. The Google toolbar has only recently been made available for these, so failure to convert these ISBN's to Amazon links probably was an error.
Alibris uses ISBN numbers in many of their listings, and they are not meant to be links. For whatever reason, AutoLink found some of them but not others for me. The ones it did find, AutoLink converted to Amazon links. In several cases, these links informed me that books that cost $2.95 on Alibris could be had for $.01 on Amazon, or in one case, Amazon wanted $1.17 vs. $2.95 for Alibris.
In perhaps the ultimate insult, I went to the Barnes and Noble site. As the images accompanying this article show, they were asking $3.99 while Amazon was offering a used copy for a penny. Of course, I could switch my default supplier to Barnes and Noble and probably play the same trick on Amazon.
So we have seen the face of progress, and while much of it is beautiful, we can also see a darker side. This is a service that only works for people who want it. Google does not force it upon you. In most cases, it is a harmless and helpful service. For example, if you are reading a review of a book which includes an ISBN, converting that number to a link to buy the book is a handy feature. Some of the other AutoLink features, such as the ability to convert addresses to a location on a map, are very useful benefits for which it's hard to imagine any downside. However, I am still troubled by a program that can convert one bookseller's listings into promotions for another, likely a bigger and more powerful competitor. Despite the undoubted innocence of intentions, and the benefits this service provides, there is something terribly unfair about converting one bookseller's work into advertising for another. As it stands right now, I don't like it.