Another late-night blogging. I was reading and replying to emails today and, although I’ve started reasonably early (about 11:15 PM), it’s already 12:45 AM! Time flies when you are trying to write useful emails, huh?
Anyway, this post is not about writing emails, or my lack of ability to write emails quickly, but about my second experience looking at OpenLibrary.org
I have to start by saying that the project itself is great. I’m always excited about open content anything that leverages information that exists out there (book catalogs) and tries to add less structured content on top of it. Apart from all that, what I find interesting about this website is actually its problems: finding anything!
Their goal is to have a page of every single book ever published. Which means, multiple pages for books that have been republished multiple times. And so far with no concept of “work” that would group those books together. To exemplify where the problem is, I decided to do a search on all their catalog and see if I could randomly come across a book that had not only the library card part, but also contents. For that I needed a book that has been around for long enough that it would be in public domain. The book that came to mind was Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” (don’t ask me why).
So I started by searching “a tale of two cities”… Terrible mistake. Received 26 results. On the first 20 results, only 1 said it was written by Charles Dickens:
I found odd. So I clicked on the author. I was then sent to the page of the author and all the books. No counts of the total number of books there, but I found 12 in the first 10 pages. Not grouped at all, so I had to look page by page and find the book (and note that for some reason Firefox didn’t like the page and when searching it would only find the first occurrence of the words and then be stuck there).
It was time-consuming and yielded no scanned versions. Yes, it’s still a beta site, but apparently they still have a long way to go there before I can say that I’ll start using it for something.
I re-found this website after listening to this week’s TWiT. Brewster Kahle was there to talk about the Internet Archive and mentioned this website he was working on building. What I found nice is the apparent motto behind the internet archive: “Children today are being educated on the internet. However, the internet today does not contain the quality that you were able to find on books of the past. So we are just not providing them with the opportunity of a high quality education.” Very interesting point.