Google is currently attending the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany and has taken this as an opportunity to make a number of book and literacy related announcements.
In collaboration with LitCam and UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning, Google has launched The Literacy Project. The website is supposed to serve as a resource for literacy organizations, teachers and anyone else interested in education and reading, and allows people to find articles, videos and books about literacy education. It also enables people to start their own reading or literacy groups.
The site draws on the Google services Google Scholar, Google Book Search, Google Maps, Google Video, Google Groups, and Blogger and provides interesting examples of how to use these services in support of literacy.
For example, Google Maps can be used to find literacy organizations around the world, literacy groups can view videos on literacy and get new ideas for literacy programs, and groups can produce and upload their own videos about their work. Book lovers can simply search Blogger for book club blogs!
The Literacy Project is a very nice showcase of how online services can be used in support of literacy and other worthy causes, and Google has certainly put its weight behind a very worth cause here. After all – words and language are the basis of the Internet, and search engines too!
Google’s other announcement was the release of their own alternative list of most popular books, based on searches conducted on Google Book Search. Google’s top 10 list in no way relates to other bestseller lists like those on amazon.com or in the New York Times. For the week ended September 17, the English language top 10 according to Google Book Search contained fairly obscure titles like “Measuring and Controlling Interest Rate and Credit Risk” by Frank J. Fabozzi, Steven V. Mann and Moorad Choudhry and “Diversity and Evolutionary Biology of Tropical Flowers” by Peter K. Endress.
So here’s the final question: Why is Google attending the Frankfurt Book Fair? A dusty old book fair (okay, I take that back – it’s a very cool book fair, I’ve been there myself and loved it!) doesn’t seem like a cool place to hang out for a cutting edge online company like Google.
Well, Google Book Search is actually highly controversial in publishing circles, where many question whether Google’s full text indexing of books still constitutes fair use or openly violates copyright. A lawsuit has already been filed against Google in this matter, and Google’s presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair could be seen as stepping into the lion’s den and improving the company’s dialogue with the publishing industry.