The invisible web is still there, and it is probably larger than ever

Book review: Devine, J., & Egger-Sider, F. (2014). Going beyond Google again : strategies for using and teaching the Invisible Web. Chicago: Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association. ISBN 9781555708986, 180p.

Going Beyond Google Again: Strategies for Using and Teaching the Invisible Web

The invisible web, as we know it, dates back to at least 2001. In that year both Sherman & Price (2001) as well as Bergman (2001) came out with two studies describing the whole issue surrounding the deep, or invisible web, for the first time. These two seminal studies each used a different term to indicate the same concept, invisible and deep, but both described independently from each other convincingly that there was more information available that ordinary search engines can see.

Later on Lewandowski & Mayr (2006) showed that Bergmann perhaps overstated the size of the actual problem, but it certainly remained a problem for those unaware of the whole issue. Whilst Ford & Mansourian (2006) added the concept of the “cognitive inivisbility”, i.e. everything beyond page 1 in the Google results page. Since then very little has happened in the research on this problem in the search or information retrieval community. The notion of “deep web” has continued to receive some interest in the computer sciences, where they look into query expansion and data mining to alleviate the problems. But ground breaking scientific studies on this subject in the area of information retrieval or LIS have been scanty.

The authors of the current book Devine and Egger-Sider have been involved with the invisible web already since 2004 (Devine & Egger-Sider, 2004; Devine & Egger-Sider, 2009). Their main concern is to get the concept of the invisible web in the curriculum for information literacy. The current book documents a major survey in this area. For the purpose of getting the invisible web in the information literacy curriculum they maintain a useful website with invisible web discovery tools.

The current book is largely a repetition of their previous book (Devine & Egger-Sider, 2009). However two major additions to the notion of the invisible web have been added. Web 2.0 or the social web, and the mobile or the apps web. The first concept I was aware of and used it in classes for information professionals in the Netherlands for quite a long time already. The second concept was an eye opener for me. I did realize that search on mobile devices was different, more personalized than anything else, but I had not categorized it as a part of the invisible web.

Where Devine and Egger-Sider (2014) disappoint is that the proposed solutions, curricula etc, only address the invisible as a database problem. Identify the right databases and perform your searches. Make students and scholars aware of the problem, guide them to the additional resources and the problem is solved. However, no solution whatsoever, is provided to solve the information gap due to the social web or the mobile web. On this part the book does not add anything to the version from 2009.

Another notion of the ever increasing invisible web as we know it, concerns grey literature. Scholarly output in the form of peer reviewed articles or books are reasonably well covered by (web) search engines and library subscribed A&I databases, but to retrieve the grey literature still remains a major problem. The whole notion of grey literature is mentioned in this book. Despite the concern about the invisible or deep web, they also fail to stress the advantages that full scale web search engines have brought. Previously we only had the indexed bibliographic information to search whereas web search engines brought us full text search. Full text search, while not being superior, has brought us new opportunities and sometimes improved retrieval as well.

The book is not entirely up to date. The majority of the reference are up to date to 2011, only a few 2012 let alone 2013 references are included. Apparently the book took a long time to write and produce. But what is really lacking is a suitable accompanying website. The many URLs provided in the book on a short list would have been helpful to probably many readers. For the time being we have to do it with their older webpage which is less comprehensive than the complete collection of sources mentioned in this edition.

Where the book completely fails is the inclusion of the darknet. Since Wikileaks and Snowden we should be aware that even more is going on in the invisible web than ever before. Devine & Egger Sider, only mention the darknet or dark web as an area not to treat. This is slightly disappointing.

If you have already the 2009 edition of this book, there is no need to upgrade to the current version.

References
Bergman, M.K. (2001). White Paper: The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 7(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0007.104
Devine, J., & Egger-Sider, F. (2004). Beyond Google : The invisible Web in the academic library. The Journal of Academic Librairianship, 30(4), 265-269. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2004.04.010
Devine, J., & Egger-Sider, F. (2009). Going beyond Google : the invisible web in learning and teaching. London: Facet Publishing. 156p.
Devine, J., & Egger-Sider, F. (2014). Going beyond Google again : strategies for using and teaching the Invisible Web. Chicago: Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association. 180p.
Lewandowski, D., & Mayr, P. (2006). Exploring the academic invisible web. Library Hi Tech, 24(4), 529-539. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/07378830610715392 OA version: http://eprints.rclis.org/9203/
Sherman, C., & Price, G. (2001). The invisible web: Discovering information sources search engines can’t see. Medford NJ, USA: Information today. 439p.
Ford, N., & Mansourian, Y. (2006). The invisible web: An empirical study of “cognitive invisibility”. Journal of Documentation, 62(5), 584-596. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220410610688732

Other reviews for this book
Malone, A. (2014). Going Beyond Google Again: Strategies for Using and Teaching the Invisible Web, Jane Devine, Francine Egger-Sider. Neal-Schuman, Chicago (2014), ISBN: 978-1-55570-898-6. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(3–4), 421. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2014.03.006
Mason, D. (2014). Going Beyond Google Again: Strategies for Using and Teaching the Invisible Web. Online Information Review, 38(7), 992-993. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/OIR-10-2014-0228
Stenis, P. (2014). Going Beyond Google Again: Strategies for Using and Teaching the Invisible Web. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(4), 367-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.53n4.367a
Sweeper, D. (2014). A Review of “Going Beyond Google Again: Strategies for Using and Teaching the Invisible Web”. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 26(2), 154-155. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1941126x.2014.910415