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A month ago, Google announced that it has begun putting magazines in Google Books. In one way, this is a new direction for Google. But looked at broadly, it’s really not so new — Google has been putting old journals in Google Books for a long time. The basic difference between the newly announced “Google magazines” and Google’s “old journals,” of course, is the date of publication — The titles that are being treated as “magazines” are generally published in the last 50 years or so. But some of these also include much older issues, in some cases, such as Popular Science, going back to the 1800′s. A bit of digging — searching for words in an article — finds a nice case of a title that’s in Google Books both ways, as a magazine and as an old journal. Snippets from the “About this book” and “About this magazine” pages below show differences.

Old journals – The journal / book format

Old journals are given the same treatment as books, with each volume of the journal being considered a book. The record here is for volume 26 of Popular Science Monthly (the old name of Popular Science).

Old journals are scanned into Google Books by libraries, in the case shown here, Harvard University. As with other books scanned by libraries, the About page has a selection of thumbnail images, giving an idea of what sort of graphics are in the book. Also note the button to Download the entire volume in PDF format.

The Magazine format

In contrast to journal/book format, in which the volume (made up of several issues) is treated as the basic record unit, in magazines, the basic record unit is the issue. This record is for the Feb 1885 issue of Popular Science.

Comparing this with the journal/book format, this lacks thumbnail preview images and it also does not support downloading a PDF of the issue. It does, however, have the great advantage over the journal/book format, that all issues are connected in the Browse all issues menu.

Until now, books with pictures, especially color pictures, have been a relatively small part of Google Books. But the addition of highly visual, popular magazines changes this — The titles added so far are filled with pictures!

On one level, more pictures in Google Books is gratifying — a theme of this blog! But the navigation/search capabilities for finding these pictures is limited. The best way seems to be to use Advanced Search and limit the search to Magazines. But the results listing for this is text-only. It would be much easier to search for pictures with the sort of thumbnail search results interface that’s used in Google Image Search.

In light of the launching of picture-laden magazines as part of Google Books, it’s interesting to note that only last month, Google launched Life magazine pictures, as part of Google Image Search. Google is facing the same choice that librarians have been considering for the last while — Should books (or magazines) that have many pictures be considered mainly as books that happen to have pictures, or as pictures that happen to be in books?

The pictures & links below are from magazines that are in Google Books. I’ve chosen them because I know from work on Hardin MD that they are on highly-searched subjects, which would likely appear in Google Image Search if they were crawlable.

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Google Books - Magazines

When I started this list in Dec, 2008, Google did not provide a list of their own — Thankfully, they provided one in Nov, 2009 (their announcement is Here, their list is Here). Assuming they keep up their list, I will probably not add to the list provided here. Comparing their list with mine now (11/12/09), they have everything on my list except one title (Log home living). Good start, Google, Hope you keep it up :-)

Please note: the dates given for titles is not necessarily inclusive! Some are quite spotty.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Maps and newspapers, because they’re rich in graphic information, benefit greatly from a zooming and panning interface. Text-only books, because they’re more linear and because text is easily searchable, don’t benefit from this sort of interface as much, but books with pictures certainly do.

zKimmer.com has recently implemented Google Maps technology for viewing non-map text and picture resources, such as magazines and newspapers, which are converted from PDF format. This is an exciting development especially because it holds promise that the same sort of technology could also be used for books.

With Google’s great success using a zooming-panning interface in Google Maps, and having recently launched Google Newspapers which also uses it, the question naturally occurs — Will Google developers sooner or later also use it for Google Books?

The zKimmer screen-shots above are from a magazine (though they could easily be from a book) and those below are from a newspaper. They both show how this interface facilitates navigating a resource that includes extensive pictures as well as text.

zKimmer lacks a good search capability (it has a search box, but it doesn’t seem to work) — So it’s not ready for heavy-duty enterprise use — It’s exciting, though, because it shows the potential value of a zooming-panning interface for books. Google Books already uses panning and zooming in a limited way, for navigating between pages, but a multi-page pan and zoom, as in zKimmer, would greatly simplify picture and text navigation.

Other implementations of the Google Maps API for non-map graphic resources are a desktop collection of elegant books by the reclusive German techno-artist Markus Dressen, and a card set from the World Of Warcraft.