Sunday, July 16, 2006

Our book on search analytics - competing with itself thanks to O'Reilly

Lou Rosenfeld and I are writing a book on search analytics -- how to exploit the gold mine of information that exists in the logs your local search engine compiles. Lou, co-author with Peter Morville of the best-selling O'Reilly title, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, has launched his new publishing house, Rosenfeld Media, and this will be one of the first of its books in the area of improving the user experience.

We're really excited about the book. We're learning great things by interviewing some very smart people who work for leading search technology companies, or leading companies exploiting search analytics. Thanks to Lou's reputation and his extensive network of friends in the information architecture field, we're able to connect with wise folks who can teach us a lot.

Please check out the Web site for the book where we're discussing our learning process as we go:

Now that's all great news... Here's a frustrating footnote. Last year Lou and I submitted a proposal to the noted computer publisher O'Reilly. We were still in discussions with them when they mailed me a contract! It took a little longer for Lou to receive his copy, but we hadn't agreed to write the book for them, and by then Lou had decided to proceed with his own imprint. We confirmed to O'Reilly that we wouldn't sign the contract and would publish elsewhere.

Imagine my surprise one day in April 2006 when, while merrily Googling away doing research for the book, I discovered you could already buy it! O'Reilly had assigned the book an ISBN -- 0596101910 -- and submitted it to the Amazons of the world as a soon-to-be-published book!

Click for full size image

Poking around a bit I found that, Powell's, and several other outlets listed the book. Some sites even accepter pre-orders! At first this was mildly amusing.

On May 1, Lou politely asked a contact at O'Reilly (aka ORA) to excise the book from the publishing world's pipeline. We eventually received word that they would.

Now it's July 16, and the book now appears on more publishing outlets than it did on May 1. You can buy "our book" in Canada, the UK, Germany, and Japan. Powell's, the legendary bookseller in Portland, Oregon, has it.

This is more than a little bit frustrating, and no longer a bit amusing. As our real book moves closer to publication, the phantom title could cause serious confusion in the marketplace. ORA tells us that once they ship an ISBN out on a book industry network called Onix, it's hard to retract it from booksellers.

Regardless of whatever technical hurdles ORA faces in undoing this mess, it seems to me they are obliged to un-do what they've done -- promptly.

Click below to see the Japanese, UK, and German -- and US -- versions of the problem.