IVP - Behind the Books - What "Google Suggests" About Books

December 12, 2012

What "Google Suggests" About Books

You know the nifty feature from Google where they expand what you're starting to type, sort of like "auto-complete" for your search query? Technically, that's exactly what Google itself calls it: Autocomplete. (I guess they're probably not wild about the vernacular "Google Suggests," with its implication of recommendation or endorsement.) Well, no matter what it's called, you can learn a lot that way.

Autocomplete and its cousin Google Instant both give you on-the-fly interaction with the mass of information in Google's databases — but I think Autocomplete is cooler.

That's because, while Google Instant quickly opens up common search results, Google Autocomplete opens up common search queries — and thereby opens up your fellow humans' minds. As I say, you can learn a lot this way, whether you want to or not. :)

Let's take book-related searches, for instance. (Seems fitting for "Behind the Books.") Here are some examples.

What Book

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This is what you get when you start searching for "what book." (At least, it's what I get. Your results may vary, because Google does take into account variables like your geographical location.) I'm pleased to see the first result is an appeal for recommendations; it shows that people are interested in reading, and reading something they should read. (Whether so personal a question gets answered well, I'm less optimistic.)

It's also great to see Paul and the Torah represented! We at IVP certainly would have a few recommendations to offer on those fronts. (Say, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes and The Meaning of the Pentateuch, for starters.)

What Ebook

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This one seems as if it should be really similar to "what book" — but "what ebook" is preoccupied with technical dimensions. I think this proves what we digital publishers know all too keenly: we're still really early in the history of ebook adoption. People haven't gotten to wanting ebook content recommendations (as they have for "what book"); they still need ebook platform advice.

Books Written

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Here's a weird one. At least Paul (again) and Greek are making a showing. But if you'd asked me to predict which two presidents would make this list, I would have been half wrong.

Books About

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Now here are the two presidents I'd expect, especially given the current success of Lincoln. And Chicago is undoubtedly here because that's where I am. (Or maybe because it's America's greatest city? This message brought to you by the Chicago Office of Tourism and Civic Boosterism.)

Interestingly this category differs almost entirely — with just Obama and Chicago overlapping — from a very similar search in the singular, to wit:

Book About

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I figure these are so different because "books about" is used when someone's looking for a category or topic, while "book about" may mean they have something particular in mind? The bin Laden and SEALs references suggest that — although surely heaven warrants a whole category. Go figure.

Ebook About

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Finally, again we see a difference between books and ebooks. Judging from the difference here, ebook seekers are way more peaceful, creative and possibly inebriated. We may have to keep these factors in mind for the IVP ebook catalog.

We Stink

We know that our own site's search stinks, by the way. Please do not go now to ivpress.com and try out either our search box or the "Search" page (which is really a "Browse" page — you know, like, the opposite of what it's called).

But I would like to show off some experimental search capabilities that we're working on. For the first time ever, we've deployed Google Custom Search within the IVP site, as part of our Urbana Bookstore. Just look for the search field in the bright pink box at the center of the page, under "Shop the Urbana Bookstore." Try it out and let me know what you think!

What books have you learned about, or what have you learned about books, by googling? I'd love to hear.

Posted by Jon Boyd at December 12, 2012 11:11 AM Bookmark and Share

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