When I first heard about Google Books a few years ago I was excited but hardly anything came from it. Their selection was weak and you couldn’t do much with it. That has finally changed.
Now you can cut and paste sections from books into images or text files. This is really, really cool. I am imagining the day where Google or Amazon contracts with publishers so purchasing a book gives you a unique access code to a digital copy of the book in their archives. This way you would be able to quickly search through current books for a passage or specific topic–instead of being limited to books with expired copyrights. What’s better than the Index? A digital Index. I wouldn’t underestimate how radically this could change how people read, purchase and interact with books. And Google is now poised to be the middleman in that transaction.
I could search and buy every book that mentions Herodotus. Or, hopefully with the incorporation of something similar to Amazon’s tagging system, find books that have similar passages or philosophies. Or I could do my marking and flagging digitally, as to be able to access it all over the world. I could feel like a certain page is especially relevant to a friend and send it to him–where he would have the option to purchase just that section or the whole book. If a student was studying off a list of Key Terms, they could easily be taken directly to the right chapters if they owned the textbook and had a digital license. In all seriousness, the kind of money in this field is probably just small change for Google but in terms of impact, this technology revolutionizes information. And you can’t help but get excited about that.
And even more helpful, Google RSS now has a search function which makes it possible to wade through your Reader in a more timely fashion. Honestly, I have no idea why this took so long to implement because it makes so much sense but it is long overdue.