Does Google Print provide a
marvelous, free way to gain added exposure and sales for books? Or does it put
your copyrighted material at risk? Because I wanted answers to those questions,
I listened intently as Jen Grant, the Google Print product marketing manager,
explained the new Google Print system at BookExpo America, and I took note of
several statistics she cited. For instance, 52 percent of all search engine
referrals come from Google, as do roughly 60 percent of search engine referrals
to book sites. Then I experimented with the program, gathered more information,
came to some conclusions, and asked several other PMA members to comment on
them (see “Other Voices, Other Views,” below).
My major conclusion is this: The big
advantage of Google Print, especially for smaller publishers, is that it can
increase the visibility of individual titles and improve the odds of selling
books to people who want information on specific subjects. That’s Book
Marketing 101, in my book.
Through Google Print, searchers
can rapidly access a book’s full T of C, index, and five-page chunks of text,
in much the same way as they would if they were in a bookstore or library. Does
this endanger copyrighted material from your book? My view is no. It appears
that an excellent security system is in place. A searcher can’t download
information, can’t copy it, and can’t have online access to more than 20
percent of a book. Also, sections of each book are randomly blacked out—a
very cool security feature!
Furthermore, if you sell through
your Web site, online retailers, and/or independent bookstores registered with
BookSense, Google Print helps searchers not only find your book, but buy it.
This is what good book marketing is all about, and I think this program’s a
But don’t take my word for it. Try
it out yourself.
The Poynter Case in Point
Why not give Google Print a test
drive? Go to Google and click first on the “More” tab. Then click on “Print:
Search the full text of books” (the tab with the icon showing several books
spine out). This action will bring up a standard Google search box, but the
results for your search string will be books, only books. (When you conduct a
standard search on Google now, book titles sometimes show up in the results,
but once Google has scanned and digitized a sufficient number of titles, you
will start to see book titles in the search results on a regular basis.)
I typed in “self publishing” and
hit Enter. Bingo—a string of books on self-publishing 10 times longer
than your arm. Number two on the hit parade was Dan Poynter’s <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The Self Publishing Manual.
The cover of the most recent edition was displayed (a pleasant surprise, since,
as most of you know, Amazon’s practice of highlighting old editions has been a
With Dan Poynter’s virtual book in
my virtual hand, I had access to a synopsis as well as bibliographic and
copyright page data. I could look through the entire table of contents (two
pages) to find topics I wanted to read about. I could consult the full index
(five pages). And I could search within the book. When I typed in “electronic
books” (a subject covered on page 335, according to the T of C), I was asked to
register with Google Print by filling out a simple form, providing my email address
and establishing a password. Once I got to page 335, I was able to read it plus
two pages on either side.
Then I checked out the links for
ordering in the lower-left corner of the screen. Choices included Dan Poynter’s
own Para Publishing Web site, followed, in alphabetical order, by Amazon.com,
Barnes&Noble.com, BookSense (which lets users identify independent
booksellers that stock a given title by entering a ZIP code), and Froogle
(which refers users to other online sites that sell the book and lets them
If you decide you would like to
have Google scan and digitize your books for free and make them available
through its search methodology, all you have to do is click on “Information for
Publishers” on the Google Print home page and follow the simple instructions.
Google will ask you to send a copy of your book, and within about six weeks the
book will be scanned, digitized, and available online. You also have the option
of uploading an already digitized version of your book in PDF format.
And while you’re at the
“Information for Publishers” location, check out Google AdWords, Google
AdSense, and Web Analytics. These programs are designed to help you raise the
profile of your book for appropriate searchers through advertising, to earn new
revenue by placing advertising on your own site, and to improve site tracking
Is Google Print good or bad? What
do you think? If you are already a Google Print participant and have an opinion
to share with other PMA members, please drop me a note. If you decide to
participate in Google Print after reading this article, please register and let
me know how your experience goes. Your feedback will be covered in a future
article of the Independent.
Robin Bartlett is the
director of sales and business development for the American College of
Physicians in Philadelphia. He is a frequent contributor to the <span
former member of the PMA board of directors, chair of the PMA University
program, and president of the American Medical Publishers Association. To
contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.robinbartlett.com.
Other Voices, Other Views
A Long Wait
I agree that Google Print offers a
great opportunity for independent publishers to gain visibility for their
titles. I’ve never obsessed about people stealing the online versions of our
books because, realistically, I believe most people are not going to take the
time to print out a book on 8.5″ ×
11″ paper. Now, if I published cookbooks or how-to books, I might feel
differently, but an illustrated children’s book is probably reasonably safe.
And Google appears to have the safeguards built in to prevent unauthorized
The bad news? Google asked our
company to be a part of Google Print back in March 2004; we sent them copies of
our books in April 2004, and our titles are still not part of the program. The
good news? I was able to talk with a live person from Google at BEA who not
only promised to look into it and get back to me but then sent a follow-up
email a few days later confirming that they were working on determining status.
She also pointed out that Google Print is a beta program, so there are bound to
be glitches and bugs.
I would certainly recommend that
small publishers participate but would also warn that the time frame could be
longer than expected. Just my two cents.
Seeing Farther into the Future
I think I sense another tectonic
shift coming in book marketing and delivery. I have been an AdWords believer
for some time, and now our press is becoming a Google Print believer as well.
Because the mission of The
Fellowship Press is dissemination of our material rather than RIAA-style
copyright protection, it may become an extremely valuable marketing avenue for
us. But only time will tell.
With the potential for Google to
start “booking” 150,000 to 200,000 new titles a year, it’s too soon to know if
this new tool will be creatively used or abused. I will be interested to see
whether I will be able to buy a book and get the first few chapters
electronically and instantly, buy just the information I need for a reasonable
price, or perhaps link audio delivery with paper delivery, and I suspect we
will see “Google-optimized” titles before long.
When I first heard of Google
Print, I sent a box of books to be scanned. Google, like Amazon, is on the
cutting edge of research and merchandising. I want to be there. They haven’t
made any mistakes I can remember, so I will be first in line for anything new
they dream up.
One great advantage of Google
Print is the cross-book searching. A writer may be working on an article on
premiums, incentives, and ad specialties. A Google search on premium sales
would bring up The
Self-Publishing Manual, which has eight relevant references. A
writer who may not have considered books as premiums has now been introduced to
our industry and to my book.
Google Print is a great research
tool. I recommend it in my presentations. I am not terribly concerned that
someone will get the book’s info without reading the book. I want them to know
of the book. (And I update all my books regularly.)
At BEA I spent a lot of time at
the Google booth playing with this new service, and as far as I’m concerned it
is nothing but a win-win situation for any publisher. And Google even does all
the work! As a result of my play period with it, I have sent an email to all my
clients suggesting that they take a long, serious look at participating in
A Positive Promotional Tool
I signed up for Google Print at
BEA for my two books and have uploaded e-book versions to start the placement
process. I see absolutely no downside to this and plenty of upsides. It doesn’t
cost the publisher a dime; it increases exposure, provides direct click-through
access to selected purchase venue(s) in the desired order (for which Google
takes nary a piece), and offers publishers income potential from the
(exceptionally unobtrusive) ads placed on the pages called up by a viewer’s
I think it’s terribly shortsighted
of authors to view this as content being given away free. As you so accurately
point out, Google Print gives potential buyers the chance to check out your
books as they would if they were in a bookstore or library (or even at Amazon,
if your books are part of Amazon’s “Search Inside” program), although in
bookstores and libraries all the content is available. This adds up to more
exposure. It’s simply another promotional avenue to pursue. If it helps sales,
great. If it does little, I’ve lost nothing. But, given the ubiquity of Google,
I can’t help but feel it will have an impact.
I am in favor of Google and the
way it approaches the viewing of books. I think it makes sense in the emerging
electronic community in which we all live. I believe, however, that publishers
should decide whether or not to allow their books to be “Google-ized.”
Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and Google has made arrangements
with libraries to be able to go in and scan their stock.
Like you, I do not believe that
books will be pirated through this mechanism, and I totally believe that it can
and will increase publishers’ sales. Blocking a percentage of the book,
allowing users to view just five pages at a time, and other features have
certainly taken copyright infringement into consideration.
My only concern is about the
publisher and/or author having the right to accept or decline participation.
Google Print Won’t Let You
I completely agree with you about
Google Print. After hearing about it at PMA-U, I decided to sign up, and I
looked into the security issues to make sure that searchers couldn’t make off
with too much of our hard-researched information. I found that it was
impossible to print any part of the book as you search, even if you just try to
print the web page.
Too Soon to Tell
I certainly understand the
positive points you raise, but I do have reservations. I put almost all of
Square One’s books in the Google Print system early on, but not without a good
deal of thought. Yes, we are a society making its way on to the information
highway—some of us embracing it, while others are kicking and
screaming—but in a short time we will see whether Google Print encourages
computer users to buy books. As a publisher, I really, really, really hope it
does, but until I see it happen, I will reserve my judgment.
Meanwhile, ignoring the fact that
fewer people are reading books doesn’t make that fact go away; and knowing that
more people are now turning to the Internet instead of books for information is
no comfort for publishers.
When libraries go online with
whole books for their patrons—and one day they will—this will be a
great boon for the reading public, but at what cost to publishers? When
bookstore chains begin to publish their own books, how will that
affect—oops, never mind. The point is that the future truly is here now,
and it may not be what you had expected. I, like you, hope it will provide more
book sales, but I’ll continue to look for ways that work now.
One final note. You know what will
increase book sales? More people who want to read; who enjoy reading; who
believe reading encourages thinking. We’ve got a president who doesn’t consider
reading important, and actually seems proud of it. We’ve got a society that
thinks the daily news needs a punch line. Until we get our priorities straight
as a society, the number of people who read books in this country will continue
to shrink. I hope Google Print helps, but I am not holding my breath.
A Boost for Branding
Google understands very well that
the search experience is about
what’s relevant is content. Savvy Web-store customers are demanding that
publishers let users search inside books—and not just inside the table of
contents. Google provides a way to do this that no independent publisher could
afford on its own.
In addition to giving publishers
the opportunity to showcase their titles in search results, Google Print lets
publishers showcase their brands, which is the hallmark of good marketing. For
example, when you search for a publisher whose titles are included in Google
Print, the results will not only direct you to the publisher’s Web site, but
will also prominently display the publisher’s logo with all its products.
Pretty cool indeed!
While this is still a beta test
project for Google and the jury is still out, remember that if you participate
in the program and you are not satisfied, you can withdraw a title at any time.
(Please note: these are my personal opinions and my own thoughts and are not
endorsed by the ABA.)
The Music Industry Model
I share the sentiments of Jan,
Dan, George, and others and simply add that we need to embrace the digitization
of our content. It will happen one way or another, and the best thing that can
happen is Google Print taking the lead.
The recording industry has been
fighting a largely losing battle against “shared music” sites for years; they
effectively shut down Napster only to have a dozen clones and descendants take
its place. Savvy music artists and marketers are realizing, however, that
shared music serves to promote their work, drive merchandise and concert sales,
and lead to ancillary sales and licensing. Plus, there is still no shortage of
gold and platinum record sales (not to mention the success of Apple’s iTunes).
With or without Google Print,
there will come a day when the average person with a minimal amount of
technology will be able to easily digitize an entire book and post it online
for free. This was unimaginable with music not so many years ago, and now it’s
a reality. It would be foolish to think it will never happen in our industry.
Wise publishers and authors will mentally prepare for that day and embrace all
sources of revenue related to their content.
Google Print is at the forefront
of this technological shift and may represent a viable revenue model (much like
iTunes) with the potential for avoiding an all-out Napster-like situation with