Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2009 Issue

<i>Bing:</i> Microsoft Reenters the Search Engine Wars

Bing08-09

Bing offers a more attractive search page, but not a notably better search.


By Michael Stillman

The search engine wars may not seem a topic related to the book trade, but of course it is. An increasing number of book sales are generated from search engines, and for those with their own websites, either search engines are your major source of new customers, or you do not have that many new customers. This is how most people find you. Your business may be directly related to the search engines' performance.

Today, "search engine" has become virtually synonymous with Google. At least in America, over three-quarters of searches are believed to be conducted on Google. Businesses live and die by their matches. The only other searchers with significant market share are Yahoo and Microsoft, though they are distant competitors. This must really bug Microsoft, dominant in computer operating systems and related software, but unable to crawl out of a distant third place in the search engine wars.

Now, we may be wrong, but we expect search engines to play an increasing role in selling books online vis a vis the listing sites. Why? The answer is because they can do it more cheaply. They don't have to list books, they simply have to search other sites' listings. They don't have to become involved in sales, and all the related headaches of customer service, because all they do is connect buyers to sellers. The result is they can charge a smaller fee for this connection and let the seller make the sale, which many booksellers prefer to do anyway. So, we expect to see the search engines playing an increasingly important role in online book sales, which is why we believe this topic is important to the book trade. And now we can proceed to the news.

As previously noted, Google dominates the field. This does not please Microsoft. For much of the past decade, Microsoft has been chasing Google, with little success. They first purchased outside search technology, and when that didn't improve their standing, developed their own MSN search. When this made little headway, they developed Live Search. Now, Live is dead too, and Microsoft has moved on to another four letter word: Bing. Early in June, Microsoft canned Live and introduced Bing search to its visitors. Will Bing be the answer to their years of frustration, or another failed attempt to make serious headway into Google's overwhelming lead?

Early returns were favorable to Bing. Well...sort of. According to StatCounter, Microsoft's search share rose from 7.81% to 8.23%, while Google's slipped from 78.72% to 78.48%. I'm no statistician, but that sure sounds like it's within the margin of error, ordinary fluctuations, or both. For something new, the increase appears underwhelming. Perhaps Bing will grow on people as, or if, they use it, but these aren't numbers likely to cause great panic in Mountain View, California.

We took a look at Bing and it's a nice search engine. Instead of having the search box on a plain white page, like Google, Bing places it on a background of a daily changing beautiful picture. That's pretty, but of no particular benefit, maybe even distracting, when it comes to searching. Bing offers some suggestions as you begin typing, but Google can do that too. Bing offers a list of terms related to your search which may be of some marginal benefit for those struggling to find good search terms. Bing is fond of scroll-overs. In Google images, the listing site is shown below the images. On Bing, the site names are not seen until you scroll over the image, at which point it pops up a bit larger and the name of the site appears. This is a clever effect, but slows you down substantially if you want to know on which sites the images are found. Practicality and efficiency has given way to technical wizardry. The interest in special effects wears off. The need for efficiency does not.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>The Sportsman's Portfolio of American Field Sports.</i> 1855. Est: $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Bishop's Birds. Etchings of Water-Fowl and Upland Game Birds.</i> 1936. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting Big Game in Far Northwest British Columbia</i>. 1904. Est: $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Mananaland. Adventuring with Camera and Rifle Through California in Mexico.</i> 1929. Est: $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Grand Canyon Trails.</i> 1924. Est: $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia. A Narrative of a nine months’ journey..</i> 1902. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting in Tanzania [...in Zimbabwe; ...the Sudan; ...in Botswana; ...in Ethiopia; ...in Zambia; ...in South Africa; ...in Kenya]</i>. 1991-2000. Est: $800 to $1200
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hounds and Hunting through the Ages ... with an Introduction by the Earl of Lonsdale</i>. 1928. Est: $600 to $900
  • <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:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000

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