Google GeoMaps the Book World: A Little More “Gee Whiz” Than Utility

googleearth.jpgGoogle Earth added new func­tion­al­i­ty this week that lets you search the world by geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion and find books that ref­er­ence that loca­tion. So, for exam­ple, if you open Google Earth and type “Lon­don,” you will be pre­sent­ed with numer­ous yel­low book icons. Click on any one of them, and Google will show you instances where books specif­i­cal­ly ref­er­ence “Lon­don.” (In this case, I found works by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, two of Eng­land’s most impor­tant polit­i­cal thinkers.) All of the books pre­sent­ed here are in the pub­lic domain, which means that you can con­tin­ue to explore the com­plete text, cour­tesy of Google, should you want to. A nice touch.

There is a cer­tain “gee whiz” fac­tor to this new appli­ca­tion, no doubt. But how wide­ly it will be used is anoth­er sto­ry. Search for “Boston” and you will get more book icons than you can han­dle. And will you want to mouse over each one to find a poten­tial­ly use­ful text? Doubt­ful. And the prob­lem will only get worse as Google Book Search, a part­ner in the project, dig­i­tizes more texts. A more effec­tive solu­tion, it seems, is sim­ply to head over to Google Book Search and con­duct a good, old fash­ioned search, then read through the more leg­i­bly-pre­sent­ed and ranked search results. That’s so 1990s, I know.

Please note that to use this new func­tion­al­i­ty, you should down­load a recent ver­sion of Google Earth, and check off “Google Book Search” in the “Fea­tured Con­tent” sec­tion under “Lay­ers.” You can get more infor­ma­tion from Google here and here.

If I am miss­ing some­thing impor­tant about this new fea­ture — that is, if I’m wrong about its util­i­ty — feel free to say so. The Google folks are smart, and I would­n’t be sur­prised if they’re see­ing some­thing that I’m not. The jury on GeoMap­ping books remains out for now.

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  • Scott E says:

    I agree that in it’s cur­rent form this is not very use­ful. How­ev­er, if you get the basics of this right it would be easy to expand into some­thing more inter­est­ing. What if this was fil­tered down to just the books that you had read? Don’t for­get that Ama­zon orders go through your gmail account. Or what if these were just non-fic­tion books that were rel­e­vant to trav­el? It might be nice to replace canned trav­el guides with actu­al nar­ra­tive from locals past and present.

  • I do trust all the con­cepts you’ve offered to your post. They are real­ly con­vinc­ing and can cer­tain­ly work. Still, the posts are too brief for novices. Could you please length­en them a bit from sub­se­quent time? Thanks for the post.

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