Google Books and the Importance of Quality Control

I’ve stopped counting the times when I used Google Books and cringed. To be honest, I have to say that I have mostly limited myself to digitized serials, serials in astronomy and physics, to be precise. I’m going to ignore bad meta data, which in itself would be a source of teeth grinding and hair pulling. I regularly find myself laughing out loud at the subject headings they came up with. Actually, it’s pretty sad.

No, my main source of frustration is bad digitization. Missing pages, partially scanned pages, pages showing body parts (so far, I’ve only seen fingers and hands), etc etc. Here you see a fine example of what I am referring to. I don’t know whose hand this is, but I would feel deeply ashamed if I were this person. Digitization is serious business, especially when your goal is preservation. When publications contain fold-outs, these need to be properly scanned, for example. I totally realize that with an enormous digitization effort like Google’s, quality control is bound to be hard, if not impossible. In the last year, about half a million scans went through my hands (figuratively speaking). I know how hard it is to check for missing pages and I also know that you simply cannot check every single image.

In addition to bad scans, I think that the search interface of Google Books, well… errr.. sucks. The results returned seem inconsistent, probably as a result of bad meta data (and bad indexing?). Navigating through results and trying to drill down or find out which other volumes were digitized is a major undertaking and often impossible.

Clearly this was a “quantity over quality” project, and quality clearly lost.

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~ by anopisthographs on November 10, 2010.

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