Digging for Googleholes

“Google is beginning to have a subtle, but noticeable effect on research. More and more scholarly publications are putting up their issues in PDF format, which Google indexes as though they were traditional Web pages. But almost no one is publishing entire books online in PDF form. So, when you’re doing research online, Google is implicitly pushing you toward information stored in articles and away from information stored in books. Assuming this practice continues, and assuming that Google continues to grow in influence, we may find ourselves in a world where, if you want to get an idea into circulation, you’re better off publishing a PDF file on the Web than landing a book deal.” Steven Johnson
Digging for Googleholes (Slate)

Johnson is the author of the mind-bending but very accessible Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. Slate is, of course, published by Micro$oft, which has a vested interested in shaking Google’s hold on the hearts and mouses of the global village.

While I have great respect for Johnson as an author and scholar, he (like Orlowski) is apparently not a very good Googler. He notes that a hungry surfer searching for “apple” will be inundated by Apple Computer and Fiona Apple. Fine. But surely a man as intelligent as Johnson knows that a search for “apple growers” or “apple fruit” would quickly solve the apparent problem.

On second glance, I see that Johnson has addressed this very concern in a comment way down at the bottom of the page, and offers a different example that makes the point more clearly.