On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 4:23 PM, Bod Notbod
Well, one of the things it reveals is the
difficulty of answering this
question and I hope that it has some relation to Wikimedia projects;
in particular, I didn't know that multiple books (entirely unrelated
books) have shared ISBNs. So, if nothing else, it might impact...
AFAIK, this is a fairly uncommon problem; I've never run across it in
6+ years of working with lots of books & library catalogs every day.
What is a much, much, much bigger problem is the issue of serials
holdings: "serials" are normally taken to be things like magazines and
journals, but in library land also might refer to, say, book series,
or government reports that are published with serial numbers. All
sorts of stuff, in other words, and it's cataloged and referred to in
all sorts of ways, which makes it tough for people looking for good
unique identifiers (or trying to figure out what counts as "a book").
And I also thought that Google's attempt to
catologue all books was
parallel to our goal of... well, I'm not sure that we ever say we're
attempting to catalogue ALL knowledge... but we seem to be making a
decent fist of it so far.
It's certainly related to recent thoughts about a bibliographic wiki;
obviously relevant to wikibooks; and it's interesting to think about
scale, which is something that's been on my mind lately. I don't know
how much effort Google made to get records from national libraries in
remote reaches of the world, but I'd imagine that there is still a big
chunk of stuff missing from this count that's not in OCLC etc.
Nonetheless I think posts like this help delineate the general scale
of the information universe that we are trying to usefully capture. I
don't have any idea how those 130M books might map onto topics, for
instance, but I'm guessing our 15M articles don't quite cover it yet.
And to think that by the year 1500 only 65,000 incunabula had been
One can think of "books", but I don't think that that is a useful
standard unit. Too many less-book-savvy people get caught up in the
notion of books as monographs. Perhaps what is needed is a new unit of
knowledge that is less misleading. Serials do not promise any unity of
subject. Simply listing them is no help to finding out what may be
useful in them. How would we deal with problems like that of the 14th
edition of the Britannica where later printings were significantly
different from late printings. Some pamphlets are not even part of
serials. I have a lovely one published by the US Army Field Office in
North Africa telling the soldiers how they should behave in France.
Scaling needs to be built in at an early stage. We need to be able to do
something entirely different from what Google and for-profit industry
can do, instead of trying to compete head-on. How is volunteer power