Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2007 Issue

Google Introduces Universal Search -- What's the Difference?


A search for "Mona Lisa" now finds YouTube matches.

Universal search may put even more pressure on traditional libraries. Internet search has already offered researchers a level of convenience unimaginable a few years ago, though with the caveat that much of the data is suspect. Still, anyone with school-age children already realizes that internet search has replaced many of the hours the last generation spent in the library. It is unlikely those who spend little time in a library as a youth will spend much more time there as an adult. Now Google has upped the level of convenience of internet search. Serious research will still require the library, but more common uses, such as students researching a term paper, can only be expected to continue to shift to the internet. Libraries will have to reinvent themselves to compete in the years ahead.

For the bookseller, whose listings are found through Google (either from their own website or a listing site), the impact is unclear. For the Americana Exchange site, which includes bookseller listings through its Books For Sale pages, the impact has been positive. Visits from Google rose by around 20% after the change was implemented. We are not sure why. Along with being visible to standard internet search, we submit the Books For Sale listings separately to Google Product Search (what used to be known as "Froogle"). Perhaps Product Search listings are being better found now in standard searches, resulting in more visits from Google. We are not sure if this is the explanation, but are happy for the additional traffic. While the various listing sites are critically important to the bookseller, no one should ever underestimate the importance of Google. Millions and millions of people who never heard of Abe or Alibris search Google regularly. As a bookseller, you need to be there.

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