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Google is famous for the brilliance of its algorithm for searching web pages. While the company looks at dozens of factors in determining which results to display, the heart of the search engine is using links between pages to rank their relevancy. We have come to depend on Google to give us exactly what we want.
But what about when the company has to reach outside the web? The printed volumes represented on Google Books form a completely different kind of problem. Google's famous algorithm can't be deployed to search through books because they don't link to each other in the way that webpages do. There is no perfect BookRank corollary for PageRank.
All of which made me wonder: How does Google Books work? What makes it tick? It turns out that it's actually a great place for the company's engineers to learn how to function in a linkless, physical world.