In 2004, Google introduced a new project wherein the company scanned books at public libraries and indexed them in the search engines. Some authors didn’t like that and sued, partnering with The Author’s Guild as plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Google. On November 14, 2013, the presiding judge in the case, Denny Chin, issued his judgment.
He sided with Google. You can read the court order here.
Google Books is an interesting project. Even though Google scans whole books, it would be impossible for a searcher to duplicate entire books for free in such a way that he could do anything with them that would violate the copyrights of authors. Here are the technical details to back up that claim:
Taken from page 9 of Judge Chin’s order:
An “attacker” who tries to obtain an entire book by using a physical copy of the book to string together words appearing in successive passages would be able to obtain at best a patchwork of snippets that would be missing at least one snippet from every page and 10% of all pages.
Let’s say you have written a book on organic gardening. Naturally, you want your book to be an authority on the topic and be included in Google Books’ search index. By having your book appear in the search index for key phrases associated with the topic of organic gardening, you increase your own stature in relation to that topic and potentially increase your readership by having more readers purchase your book or check it out at their local library.
A search for organic gardening at Google Books turns up 315,000 results. Some of those results are magazines. The second result is a book by Geoff Hamilton.
If I click on “Preview” above the search snippet, Google will take me to that book’s page on Google Books.
The first thing you’ll notice on that page is the eye-catching cover of the book. On the left, at the top, there’s a red button labeled “BUY EBOOK – $10.99.” Below that is a link labeled “Get this book in print.” If you click the link, you can be transported to your choice of several booksellers that carry the book or find a library that has it on the shelves. You can also read reviews of the book. Furthermore, there is an About link that will take you to a page where you can see the summary of the book, read reviews, and see a list of related books. You can even search inside the book and scan the table of contents (the chapter titles are clickable so that you can go to those pages and read).
Let’s go back to the previous page and scroll through the book. Google has highlighted all the instances in the book where the keywords “organic,” “gardening,” and “organic gardening” appear.
If I go back to the search box and search inside the book for “How is soil formed?”, then I’ll get a list of snippets – snapshots of pages (one-eighth pages) where those words are located in the book. I can click on those snapshots and go to the relevant page to read more about soil.
Google Books has been around long enough that a lot of search professionals are already aware of the vertical search opportunities, but I wonder how many non-SEO professionals are aware. If you are an author in any niche, whether it be fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, then you should be aware of the opportunities for attracting new readers through search. While The Author Guild has said it plans to appeal Judge Chin’s decision, I suspect that the result will be the same.
The truth is, writing books is no different in this day of SEO-mindfulness than it ever has been. Your job as author is to write a book that is relevant to reader interests, informs and entertains, and meets reader expectations on every level.
Still, if you want to increase your chances that your book will end up in the search indexes and be found by searchers, you should give careful thought to a few of its internal elements. These are the elements you should consider. They do not appear in any order of importance or relevance. It’s just a list.
There could be other factors that influence a book’s ability to be found in search. For instance, if the author of the book has a Google+ profile and that profile is connected to Google Books, then that could be a ranking factor. If a person who reviews a book has connected his Google+ profile to his public Google Books account, then the authority of that Google+ profile could affect the book’s ranking relevance in search results. These are just hypotheses.
The bottom line for authors is that you can write your book in such a way that you increase its chances of being indexed and searchable. However, your first step should be getting it into a library that has partnered with Google Books. Google has conveniently listed its Google Books library partners for all the world to see.
This is important information for independent and self-published authors. If you are serious about success as an author, then you should make every effort to ensure your book can be found by the types of readers you want. Google Books provides such an opportunity.