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>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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