Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2004 Issue

Google’s Froogle: Is It There Yet?

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A search for listings from Amazon receives the terse message "Your search did not match any products in the Books category". Froogle then tells us it did match 8,630 other items, and shows us a fishing reel, vanilla candle, a hat, Macintosh software, a table, hair elastics, batteries, gym shorts, a Lizzie McGuire doll, WWE "Ruthless Aggression" figurines for those who find Lizzie too calm, and something called "Urban Decay Cocoa". Who says Amazon has strayed from its original vision? But no books from Amazon, not one.

However, Amazon competitor Barnes and Noble shows up. In fact, they show up 1,220,000 times. And Wal-Mart shows up as having 139,000 listings. This brings us to another point. While sites like Abebooks will find you primarily old books, Froogle is a mix of old and new, which will dilute the results for those searching specifically for old and rare books. And what about eBay? A search for eBay under "books" brings up the same message as Amazon. Froogle does not find any books on eBay, but does find 333,000 other items.

This brings us to a point about Froogle and eBay, or Froogle and any other auction site. Froogle only displays items with a fixed price. If you are selling it at auction where the price is undetermined until it is sold, they do not want your listing. So why are there 333,000 items from eBay? There's an exception. If your auction includes a "buy it now" price, Froogle is willing to list it. And one more point. It's possible that some of those 333,000 eBay listings actually are books. What the zero books number means is that no one has bothered to classify any of the eBay listings under the category of "books". This is another problem for a general search engine as compared to a specific book listing site.

Here are a few more limitations for anyone wishing to have their listings show up in Froogle. Froogle only accepts listings that are in English, and only accepts sellers who will ship their books to the United States. As they say, this is still a "beta" site, and they want to make sure it functions right before rolling it out to the rest of the world. This does not mean that overseas booksellers cannot participate. They can if they write up their listings in English and agree to ship to the U.S.A.

So what kind of a grade should we give Froogle as a book searcher? I'd say maybe a beta minus. It finds a fair number of listings, but is not well designed to pinpoint your searches. And, it is still well behind the major old book sites Abebook and Alibris, not to mention the multi-site meta book search engines, when it comes to number of listings found. While the number of listings searched can and will undoubtedly be increased in the days ahead, the inability to target such fields as publisher or date remains a weakness in the Froogle approach.

Rare Book Monthly

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