March 21, 2009
In addition to Google's Froogle shopping service (still in beta), which features a searchable database of online merchants, Google is also beta-testing their Google Catalog service. Google Catalogs provides a searchable central repository of hundreds of mail-order catalogs.
The service includes the full scanned contents of the catalogs, not just a photo and subscription information. And these aren't database entries, but real high-quality images of the catalog images themselves. When you are browsing Google Catalog search results, you will see user interface controls at the top and bottom of each page. These are reminiscent of Acrobat and many other browser plug-in controls or common Windows print preview controls, and you can page through each catalog, zoom in/out, switch between one, two, and thumbnail views, jump to a specific page, and search within the current catalog. As with other Google searches, an advanced search feature is also available.
Available catalogs cover a full range of goods from business to consumer, from household names like Harriet Carter to obscure supply catalogs for specialty manufacturers. For easy online shopping, even the order forms, toll-free numbers, and vendor web sites are easily accessible. While beta testing, many of the catalogs are from one to three years old, but that's to be expected. When fully released, this service will almost surely feature not only current catalogs, but a lot more of them, as merchants become aware of the service.
Google recommends using a broadband internet connection to search their Google Catalog service. This is because all search results include images of the catalog pages themselves, and download speed over dialup will be too slow for most users. Google states that they aren't associated with the catalog merchants in any way, and receive no compensation when you buy something from an included catalog.
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Jakob Jelling is the founder of http://www.sitetube.com. Visit his website for the latest on planning, building, promoting and maintaining websites.