There’s a newly published patent application from Google, and on its face, it looks like a good match for the way books could be displayed in Google Book Search.
Parts of it appear to be included in what Google has developed, but I don’t see them using the “image distortion” described in the document.
If you haven’t spent any time with Google book search, you may not have seen how they handle some sources differently than others. For example, for a few books, it appears that you can look at many pages that include your query terms. However, for other books, where the search terms may appear on a lot of pages, you need to log into Google to look at some of the pages so that they can track how much of the book you’ve seen.
For shorter works, instead of providing full pages, Google Book Search only delivers snippets of relevant text. This is where the patent application seems to point to using a full page with the parts that aren’t relevant appearing distorted and even unreadable.
It may be worth skimming over the patent application if you are interested in seeing a detailed description on how to handle the issues that the process described within it was intended to address.
What issues was the Google Book Search patent application intended to resolve?
A little paraphrasing of the document…
Digital documents are easier to copy than physical ones, which concerns the owners of those documents when they might want to make digital copies accessible to the public.
Despite this worry, those content owners often want to offer their documents online, charging for them. It can help if the information within those documents can benefit from being searchable to find what they are looking for.
The Google Book Search patent application notes that people who use search engines have become used to view relevant portions of a document or other content before they decide to purchase it. But the risk is in providing too much content to make a complete copy and not have to pay for it.
While there are some ways to provide limited access or complete access and do something like disable the ability to print a document, most of the technologies enable access to be circumvented.
The patent application
This Google Book Search patent application describes “a way to allow a user to view an electronic document while preventing the user from making a copy of it.”
Image distortion for content security
Inventors: Joseph K. O’Sullivan
US Patent Application 20060061796
Published March 23, 2006
Filed: September 22, 2004
A software module is presented that enables a person to determine the relevance of an electronic document while preventing the person from making a complete copy of the document. In one embodiment, this is accomplished by displaying an image representing a region of interest and conveys the context of the region of interest within the document while distorting other portions of the document. In one embodiment, the software module is used in conjunction with a search engine to generate an image of a search result document.
I get the sense that this document describes the way that Google may have first envisioned Google Book Search to work and that in the time between when it was filed and published, many alternatives were developed.
For instance, if Google didn’t provide so many other services, such as Gmail and personalized search and Orkut, with the same single sign-on for all of those services, it might be questionable whether people would log in to see some books. However, since they do, it provides one way to track how much of a book a viewer sees.