Google as the Digital Gutenberg

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* Book: Google: The Digital Gutenberg. By Stephen E. Arnold. Infornotics, 2009.



Marc Arenstein:

"Over the last several years, Google has come out of the closet and entered the age of transparency yet revealing only what they choose to reveal and in and on Google’s own terms. So an idiosyncratic self-portrait image of Google has emerged, but if you want to understand it you will find very little written about Google that will survive the test of time because to do so would be making Google thinkable by showing the movable parts of this archetypical applied engineering and mathematics technology company as is done in these three monographs: "The Google Legacy” (2005), “Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator” (2007) and just published, “Google: The Digital Gutenberg” (2009).

Arnold's third monograph in the Google Trilogy series demonstrates that Google is now an end-to-end publishing, distribution, billing and access platform. Arnold shows the moving parts that Google can snap together in different ways and his analysis points to opportunities both in and outside Google and for companies and individuals resulting from Google’s disruptive nature.

Reading “Google: The Digital Gutenberg” on one level is like watching a photographic image coming up in the darkroom. I propose that this and Arnold's other studies are the best of breed in capturing Google in motion. While the first two put Google into search, application and calculative mathematical perspectives and demonstrate its ever increasing reach and potential, this latest one is more focused: it is a drill down into just one of several traditional Main Street sectors Google may decide to enter.

On another level, each of the three monographs can be viewed as a separate exercise in technical writing.

The first is done without patent exploration in many chapters, the second is the most technical whereas the third, while the shortest, is a writing compromise: tight yet comprehensive. All reward and reveal more upon each reading and each is actionable, relating ways the reader can utilize Google that are not obvious to any but the most savvy of surfers and users.

One of the first lines of “Google: The Digital Gutenberg” is “I don't think we have a suitable word to describe Google, just as there wasn't one to characterize the impact of movable type on traditional hand created manuscript production and ultimately on how the business model of the tangible book influenced media companies' operations today.” Describing technology, products and services in context with business commentary and getting this into monograph form while still timely has produced a unique descriptive style.

As one who was involved in reading one of the drafts and in now reading the finished product, I can see this as a way to hedge multiple explanatory possibilities while adding new material up to the last minute.

I believe it is illustrative of the author's effort in getting his head around Google. Buy this and the others to enjoy and benefit while bringing your’s around too.

Arnold’s style and knowledge can be sampled on his Beyond Search blog at which I find to be a most informative free source for search information. Nevertheless, in his disclaimer on the blog website, he takes pains to make ”no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site”. Seeing his formal publications differently sheds light on his potential to take points in this trilogy further in his for-fee consulting.

Most reviewers are themselves Google observers and remark upon the magnitude of Stephen Arnold’s contributions. Even so, a measure of his balance is reflected in the following statement in which Arnold perhaps unknowingly addresses a blog feedback critic with the statement;

“Google is not a planet or world dominator. Google is not SkyNet, the evil supercomputer that wanted to exterminate the pesky humans in the Terminator films.”

Most treat Arnold from the vantage point of their own expertise, mostly technical and/or from within the information field.I consider the Google Trilogy a milestone in the intellectual history of science and mathematics. Read it and see what you see." (

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