Search guru John Battelle thinks Google has just undergone a major mutation, but I'm not so sure I agree. Here's his case:
John Battelle's Searchblog: Print Implications: Google As Builder— Google was born of, by, and in the web, as an extremely clever algorithm which noticed the relationships between links, and exploited those relationships to create a ranking system which brought order and relevance to the web. Google's job was not to build the web, its job was to organize it and make it accessible to us.
But all this new Print material, well, it's never been on the web before. It's Google who is actively bringing it to us. How, therefore, does Google rank it, make it visible, surface it, and..importantly…monetize it? If a philanthropist were to drop the entire contents of the Library of Congress onto the web, Google would ultimately index it, and as folks linked to the content, that content would rise and fall as a natural extension of everything else on the web. But in this case, Google itself is adding content to the web, and is itself surfacing the content based on keywords we enter. This is a new role – one of active creator, rather than passive indexer.
This means, in short, that Google is making editorial decisions about how to surface this new content, decisions it can't claim are based on the founding principle of its mission – PageRank.
I dunno. Seems to me that the essence of Google was indeed delegating the ranking of importance to others, and free riding on the decisions made by others to put stuff on line. PageRank was just a tool to achieve those ends.
Now Google has in effect become a subcontractor to libraries who will be deciding what to put on line from their collections. It's still the library's decision, Google is just providing technical help (and getting paid for it, I'd imagine?).
As Battelle notes “Google has announced that the results will be included in the index, not separated out in a vertical book search engine.” There is an issue as to how the stuff is ranked at first, although Google Scholar gives us some hints. Over time, it gets linked to like everything else and it seems to me the problem shrinks, no?