Some positives in Google Books
No citations, sorry, but I've seen a couple of blog postings recently where the authors talk about how poorly google books works. The examples they seem to have tried have been from Shakespeare or other literature-like stuff.
In my world, I've found Google Books to be pretty helpful... so scientific information goes like:
mailing lists/chats/in-person/informal communication > conference papers > technical reports (these can be before or after any of the other points here) > journal articles > review articles > monographs > textbooks > reference books (like encyclopedias)....
So you go from less reliable but close to the research to nailed down but far from the cutting edge. If you need to learn about a new field or if you need to understand a domain, you don't start with conference papers, you start with reference books, textbooks, review articles, etc. We all know how to find these. If you're well versed in the field but need to be up-to-date -- you'd better not start with textbooks! But... what if you don't even know where to start with all of that? Which textbook might talk about the topic? What if you're a librarian and you need information on a new field or you're a computer scientist or mathematician who is for the first time working with a chemist or biologist?
I put a scientific name for a bacterium into Google Books and found a textbook from molecular biology that we had on the shelf. I trotted out to look at it and it gave me exactly what I needed. Furthermore... it helped me find the right entry in Bergey's which we also have on the shelf. (I usually do physical science stuff so am quite unskilled in using Bergey's).
So here are some reasons my searches were successful:
- I used a very specific search string in science -- a somewhat uncommon bacterium
- I have a very good collection of print materials when I actually need to *read* something I found
- I am quite aware of how to find a book in the catalog and on the shelf if I have the name from Google Books.