February 17, 2023

Talk to Books

An experimental AI tool for book-based conversations.

Best for:

  • Researchers
  • Educators
  • Avid Readers

Use cases:

  • Semantic search
  • Educational research
  • Contextual query resolution

Users like:

  • Education
  • Customer Support
  • Research and Development

What is Talk to Books?

###Quick Introduction. Talk to Books was an innovative AI experiment launched by Google in 2018 that allowed users to interact with a vast collection of books via natural language queries. This tool was built on a neural language model designed to search through the content of books and respond to user queries as if the books themselves were conversing. Geared towards avid readers, researchers, educators, and anyone else with an inquisitive mind, Talk to Books broke new ground in how we interact with text-based knowledge sources.

The primary purpose of Talk to Books was to demonstrate the effectiveness of language models, such as semantic matching or retrieval models, in real-world applications. Over time, it garnered millions of users who were charmed and amazed by its capability to provide coherent and insightful responses pulled directly from book passages. Although the experiment has now concluded, Talk to Books has substantially influenced many other Google products, including Google Shopping, Maps, Gmail, and Hangouts, using the insights derived from it.

###Pros and Cons

  1. Easy to Use: The interface was intuitive, making it accessible for people of all ages.
  2. Innovative Search Algorithm: The ability to find book passages that were semantically relevant to user queries was groundbreaking.
  3. Extensive Book Database: The tool tapped into a vast collection of books, making it a comprehensive resource for various inquiries.


  1. Limited Lifespan: As an experimental tool, it was discontinued, leaving users searching for alternatives.
  2. Focus on English-Language Books: Primarily focused on English-language texts, which limited its utility for non-English speakers.
  3. Not a Traditional Search Engine: It’s not designed for general information search but for specific book-based queries.


  • Explored book passages using an AI-driven model
  • Served as an experiment to test semantic matching capabilities
  • Influenced other Google products with its technological advancements

###Features and Functionality:

  • Natural Language Search: Users could ask questions in plain language and receive relevant book passages in response.
  • Semantic Matching: Employed advanced language models to understand and match the semantics of user queries to book passages.
  • Rich Source Material: Utilized a vast collection of books, covering a wide range of topics and genres, to provide diverse and comprehensive answers.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Streamlined interface design made it easy for anyone to use, encouraging broader adoption.
  • Influential Backend: The technology behind it continued to be used in other well-known Google applications, showcasing its robustness.

###Integration and Compatibility:
Talk to Books was a standalone application developed by Google, meaning it did not have any specific integrations with other software or platforms. Its backend technology, however, powers features in other Google services like Shopping, Maps, Gmail, and Hangouts—a testament to its utility and effectiveness.

###Benefits and Advantages:

  • Improved Search Experience: Users could find semantically related information effortlessly, making knowledge discovery more intuitive.
  • Enhanced Decision-Making: The tool’s accurate semantic matching helped users make informed decisions based on the contextually relevant book passages.
  • Educational Resource: Acted as a valuable educational tool for students and researchers.
  • Time-Saving: Quickly navigated through vast amounts of text to provide concise answers.
  • Innovative Technology: Pioneered the integration of neural language models in real-world applications.

###Pricing and Licensing:
As an experimental service provided by Google, Talk to Books was entirely free for users to access during its operational period.

Do you use Talk to Books?

There were no tiered pricing plans or licensing terms associated with its use.

###Support and Resources:
Given its experimental nature, Talk to Books had limited official support options. However, users could often find help via Google’s broader support ecosystem, including documentation and community forums.

###Talk to Books as an alternative to:
Talk to Books can be seen as an alternative to traditional book search engines like Google Books. Unlike standard search engines, which often present lists of books or static text snippets, Talk to Books offered a conversational approach, providing more contextual, semantically relevant excerpts. This capability was particularly useful when searching for complex or multi-faceted information that benefited from comprehensive insights, blending the boundaries between traditional search and interactive query resolution.

###Alternatives to Talk to Books:

  1. Google Books: Great for finding and previewing books but lacks conversational, context-driven search capabilities.
  2. Kindle’s X-Ray: Allows users to explore concepts and characters within e-books but doesn’t support natural language queries.
  3. ChatGPT: While not book-specific, it can provide vast amounts of textual information in a conversational manner, though not always directly from book sources.

Talk to Books was a pioneering AI tool that allowed users to engage with book content in an unprecedented interactive manner. Though it has been discontinued, its impact remains significant, influencing various Google products and setting a new standard for semantic search capabilities. Whether you’re an academic, a casual reader, or a knowledge seeker, its unique approach enriched the digital literature landscape and demonstrated the future potential of AI-driven knowledge discovery tools.

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