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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amazon and Google Take Ebook Rivalry Up a Few Notches

Earlier this month, Google announced plans to develop their own ebook device branding system. Reporting on this for Information Today's NewsBreaks, I began to realize that this marks yet another far more competitive venture bringing Google more deeply into product categories that it has only dabbled with in the past - and often, in the past, happy to label as 'beta' products. Google appears to increasingly mean business.

Google Places - formerly called Google Local Business - is being revamped in an effort to attract more local businesses to use Google as their choice to attract users to their services - and to imbed Google into their marketing plans. Along with this, they dropped the third-party reviews that had been a strong feature of the service.

Larry Page, Google co-founder - and recently name CEO - seems to be working to retool the company's focus and strategy. With the stated goal to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," Google's ambitions will be interesting to follow. They certainly have the deep pockets to pursue whatever technologies they choose - such as Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt), a facial recognition technology; Fridge, a group social experience firm (to beef up their Google+ efforts); Punchd, an online preference or loyalty card service; and on and on.

But they also recently closed Google Labs. A sign of more changes to come? Page seems interested in more clearly tying Google efforts to clear revenue streams in renewed product areas - from advertising to popular products like Chrome, Android and YouTube and renewed services like Google+. Their acquisitions seem to be a good fit for these core areas, in addition as Page notes to being "careful stewards of shareholder money."

Just a few days ago, Google announced its new Google Scholar Citations, which is intended to use "a statistical model based on author names, bibliographic data, and article content to group articles likely written by the same author. You can quickly identify your articles using these groups. After you identify your articles, it collects citations to them, graphs these citations over time, and computes your citation metrics" - which is something that I'm researching now. Clearly this is no money-maker today; yet libraries are increasingly relying on Google Scholar and the Google Books project in these tough budgetary times to provide core resources and services. Many libraries have begun cancelling subscriptions in areas they feel are covered well enough in Google Scholar or relying on Google patents and other products to provide key information to their users.

Critical to library plans, then is the quesiton: What is Google's intention and long-term commitment to their ebook readers, ebookstore, citation products and other efforts? I guess we'll have to wait and see - and hope they continue to abide by their 'do no evil' mantra.