Friday, September 07, 2007

Google Books adds social features

Google Books has added a couple new features that enhance the social networking capabilities of the service. The most interesting allows users to embed sections of public-domain books directly into their webpages. Below is an example from Thomas Hobbes’s translation of Aristotle’s On Rhetoric.

Aristotle's definition of rhetoric from On Rhetoric

The tool is fairly simple to use. All you have to do is click on the Google toolbar icon in the toolbar, then highlight the area you want to embed. When you’re done, a popup window with the embed code will appear.

The second feature allows users to add books to an online library (see the Add to my library link beneath the ISBN). Although I haven’t fooled around with it much, this feature seems similar to services like LibraryThing. This can’t be good news for them. Not only is the Google feature going to have more users, but it’s free (LibraryThing charges users to add more than 200 books).

These two features have turned Google Books into the YouTube of reading. It won’t be long before people are embedding books in their MySpace and Facebook profiles. I bet that savvy publishers are going to allow new books to have portions embedded on sites, just like some music publishers allow their songs to be posted on people’s MySpace pages.

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