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« The Boy Martyr; Or, Manfresti's Page. A Story of 1567 | Main | This Week's Acquisitions »

September 10, 2007



You are more charitable than I am. I don't think it's simply a question of a few "annoying little details", I think the whole enterprise is profoundly flawed. Google were in too much of a hurry, and plunged into the project without taking a long hard look at what was involved, or consulting scholars or librarians who could have warned them about some of the bibliographical complexities of nineteenth-century books. The attitude was, "let's grab the data, and any problems can be sorted out afterwards". And the result? A lack of reliable metadata, and chaotic search results with a huge number of false positives.

I wonder if Google are even aware of the extent of the problem? The attitude now seems to be, "we've got the data, let's add lots of cool applications" -- so, for example, little maps keep on popping up unexpectedly, providing you with a visual gazetteer to all the places mentioned in, say, the poetical works of Robert Southey; a classic example of misplaced ingenuity if ever I saw one.

I'm sorry to sound like an old fogey; I know I should be singing the praises of this wonderful new scholarly resource and all the research possibilities it opens up; but to be honest, I'm starting to find it slightly scary. One of the libraries I use regularly is now proposing to discard the majority of its older open-shelf reference material, including a complete run of Notes and Queries going right back to 1849. When I protested about this I was told curtly, "anyone who needs it can find it on Google Books".


My problem with Google books is that the people doing the scanning seem somewhat--unaware?--of what they are doing. I got to page 180 of Catherine Gore's _Mothers and Daughters_ and realized that only the first volume had been digitalized. AARGH!

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