I am amazed at the constantly changing landscape of information retrieval and access. In one article today there were 2 different new tools available from search engines. As I was checking them out, I found out about something that affects public domain books. Its hard to keep up.
The two new things I tried out were Bing's visual search and Google's Fast Flip.
Putting aside the "ick factor" of visual searching (do we even need to read anymore?) I thought I would give the visual search a try. It clearly is not to be used for academic research (not that there's anything wrong with that). If you just want fluffy pop culture, there you go. Again, pushing aside my bias, I clicked on "dog breeds." A lovely box came up saying I need to install some Microsoft software to run this program. At this point, I had it and clicked "cancel." I really don't want to download more software I will never use. So, if you want, go ahead and try it and let me know what you think.
Next I tried Google's Fast Flip. At least I didn't have to download any new software. It is in beta, so I don't know if it will be around forever. I kind of like it. It allows you to scan the articles they post from 39 publications. You can browse by publication, topic, most viewed, magazine section (e.g., Health, Travel, World News), etc.
As I scanned the "Recent" section, I ran across an article in the Christian Science Monitor about a partnership between Google and On Demand Books to instantly publish public domain books using the Espresso Book Machine. I've read about these book machines being used in large universities to print out textbooks, but now these books are beginning to find their way into the mainstream.
I find a strange juxtaposition in this. You can access these books for free online through Google Books. You can get most of these books from a bunch of different web sources. We've been told that ebooks are catching on, Kindle is becoming huge and print books will some day be no more. And yet, Google makes a relationship with a company that prints books. I don't know how it will all end up, but I don't think the print book will go down without a fight.