Slate’s StevenÃ‚ Johnson notes some problems with Google. All of them are fairly obvious to anyone who has ever used that service but this one is interesting:
Google is beginning to have a subtle, but noticeable effect on research. More and more scholarly publications are putting up their issues in PDF format, which Google indexes as though they were traditional Web pages. But almost no one is publishing entire books online in PDF form. So, when you’re doing research online, Google is implicitly pushing you toward information stored in articles and away from information stored in books. Assuming this practice continues, and assuming that Google continues to grow in influence, we may find ourselves in a world where, if you want to get an idea into circulation, you’re better off publishing a PDF file on the Web than landing a book deal.
Probably true. Indeed, I now use Google for things that I would once have headed off to the library for. Of course, we can take this one step further: If you want to get an idea to spread, you’re better off publishing it on a weblog–especially one read by Glenn Reynolds–than you are getting it published in an academic journal.
That said, there are no shortage of people still trying to get books and articles published. Clearly, informatiotion dissemination isn’t the only incentive out there. Career advancement, money, and pride are the most obvious ones.