another ann arbor thought: borders and google 01.04.2005, 1:27 PM
posted by kim white
Ann Arbor is also the birthplace of Borders Books, a megabookstore similar to Barnes & Noble. It started in the 70s as a small used bookstore and evolved into a superstore which, according to their website, serves "some 30 million customers annually in over 1,200 stores."
The Borders' website credits their success to, "a revolutionary inventory system that tailored each store's selection to the community it served." In other words, they applied small bookstore strategy--get to know the particulars of a customer's reading habits--on a larger scale. Since Google has chosen Ann Arbor as one locus of its nascent megalibrary, I got to thinking, what might these two distributors have in common (besides A2)? Google might be taking a cue from Borders when it designs the cyberlibrarian to accompany its digital collection. The small bookstore owner learns, through interaction, what a particular community wants. Borders' inventory system tracked what the client was buying and selling. Google may, likewise, be able to track your buying and selling, your searching and asking. Perhaps the automaton Google librarian will "know" you based on information accumulated by all the various Google searches you have conducted. Problem is, that's marketing strategy, not educational strategy. Will the Google librarian be able to make intuitive leaps leading the browser to things he/she is not familiar with rather than to more of what he/she already knows? How will search engines answer the need for this kind of expertise?
Posted by kim white on January 4, 2005 1:27 PM
tags: Libraries, Search and the Web
ben on January 5, 2005 5:23 PM:
We've already seen the beginning of intuitive search aids on Amazon - you know, those pestering "personalized recommendations"? It's been hugely successful for Amazon and has actually affected reading trends, occasionally making bestsellers out of books that were on the verge of going out of print.
A popular example of this is cited in The Long Tail manifesto. It opens with the story of how "Into Thin Air," the huge mountain-climbing catastrophe bestseller, led Amazon customers, through personalized recommendations, to a nearly forgotten title on a similar topic - "Touching the Void" - that subsequently became a bestseller.
Sure, this is a commercial example. But I'm sure this concept will be taken in many directions.