SThe lovingly jumbled piles of books at Shakespeare & Co., the famous Paris bookstore, must madden Googlers. All that information, unorganized! In the wake of its $125 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by book publishers, Google is now thinking about turning its money-burning Book Search product into an online store. This will end badly.Remember the Google Video Marketplace? Exactly. Launched months before Google bought YouTube, the video store required cumbersome copyright protections and was a nonstarter with consumers. Google closed the store last year, enraging the dozen or so people who'd actually bothered to buy videos. And Google's Book Search operations are a disaster, overseen by Ramsey Allington, an unqualified IPO lottery winner who joined Google at the right time to get valuable stock options and social connections. He has made a mess of his department, driving out qualified female employees by being a sexist boor. Publishers would do well to steer clear of Google until he's gone. Even if Google Book Search is placed under competent management, I doubt it will succeed. Google lacks a merchant's sensibility, trusting algorithms over salesmanship. But most people do not walk into a bookstore knowing what they are looking for. They seek serendipity — a quality that Googlers, with their overplanned vision of the world, hope to eliminate. There is beauty in an untidy stack of books. But a Stanford MBA's spreadsheets will never capture that. (Photo via Paris Parfait)
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