Steve Rubel Hacks Google Book Search?

    December 28, 2005

Steve Rubel, best known for his blogs on integrating technology into public relations, may have stumbled upon something interesting. In a recent blog post by Rubel, he claims to be on to something.

Rubel is a contributor to our own WebProNews and regularly provides insightful commentary on a number of issues and trends in PR field, particularly regarding technology. His post from yesterday discussed his “hacking” of Google Book Search. He said he’d been reading O’Reilly’s “Hacks” series of books.

It would seem the one that appealed most was the “PodCast Hacks” book. Rubel explains the steps for his hack in four easy steps. First, one finds the appropriate book in Google Book Search. Next, you access the book’s table of contents. Then, find your hack and finally read your hack. He says it works on any book that publishes snippets of three to five pages. But things don’t end here. He suggested at one point, these hacks needed to be closed by Google promptly.

After a number of comments on the blog about the entry, industry guru Danny Sullivan offered his fifty cents on the matter. He suggested Rubel had stumbled upon the way the system actually works. He proceeds to explain how Google Book Search works and suggests that since O’Reilly is a partner in the program, they have absolute control over the content and how and how much is displayed.

Sullivan went on to reiterate the notion Google doesn’t show any copyrighted material without the consent of writer, etc. In the end, he said this in the comments section of Rubel’s blog:

So overall, unless I’ve missed something, there’s no “hole” that you’ve “hacked” here, and that’s something you would have known if you’d bothered to actually check with Google about it before publishing. And if it really were a hack that, as you say in your comments you think should be closed, then doubly so to contact them first. At worst, someone else might publish the hack before you. But since you were already in contact with Google before that, you’d be able to come back that you knew about the hack plus would have a comment from Google to go along with it. At best, you discovered the hack, got Google to close it and score your PR coup without some of the negative reaction you see above. But like I said, there’s no hack I’m seeing here.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.