Is Google Books a Good Thing?
The Google Books project has been a working progress ever since Google was created. The co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page had been working on a research project that was supported by the Stanford digital Library Technologies Project in 1996. Google intends to scan every book ever published and make all of the text searchable so that people can find the relevant information they need about book. They want to make books more accessible to the public and create an easy mechanism of sorting a book’s content and relevance to a subject. In 2002 a secret “books” project was launched and research was underway to identify the challenges that lay ahead of them. Over this period, Googlers discovered a quick and harm free way to scan books and began to meet with Libraries to begin the digitalization of books. In December 2004 Google announces the launch of the “Google Print” Library Project thanks to partnerships from Harvard, The University of Michigan, The New York Public Library, Oxford and Stanford. Together it is said that these libraries exceed 15million volumes. In 2005 Google Print is renamed Google Books which is a more fitting title as it better explains it’s use. With the launch of Google Books and its fast development many will argue of the advantages and disadvantages of the site. The whole project seems a little bit overly ambitious and it obviously has many flaws in its system. It is a timely process to scan hundreds of millions of books and the pivotal question here is “Are Google books doing it right?” Scanning books is an extremely time consuming process so once Google books have done it, it seems unlikely that the books will be rescanned. If some of the books are not scanned properly, important literature and information could become obscured or lost through the process of digitalization. Geoff Nunberg (2009) published an article Google books: A Metadata Train Wreck and pointed out many errors in the system. One example being that he googled the name of an author and restricted the search to the works published before their year of birth. It was found that 182 hits came up for Charles Dickens alone. The Chief Engineer for Google Books, Dan Clancy claimed that the incorrect dates where the fault of the libraries. However, when the matter was investigated further it shows that the first ten full read books published before 1812 and that mention Charles Dickens are correctly dated in the catalogues that they had come from. Although one can argue that the correct information is given on the title page, there have been some other inexcusable errors too. Google Books has classified many of its books incorrectly and once again Dan Clancy has claimed that both the libraries and publishers where to blame because the classifications were drawn from the BISAC codes that is given to booksellers. BISAC codes have only been around for about 20 years meaning that any book that was put in the wrong category before this time is a mistake of Google themselves. Google have decided to take on an extremely large project but it seems apparent that they are not doing it very well. They are quick to push the blame on others and the whole project is based more towards commercialism rather than to help make knowledge available to the world. Project Gutenberg was one of the first “digital” libraries and was created by volunteers. This project seems to focus more on the importance of literature and the quality of the books available are much greater than those on Google Books. The books are proof read by human beings and their workers are not paid which is a clear sign that they actually care about making books more available to people. Google Books produces books in a much larger mass but they should be aware that people will value “quality over quantity” most. Google quickly scan these books and it’s obvious that they rarely check them for errors.
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