1899: A Very Good Year for Books

According to Google Books, it’s the year Raymond Chandler‘s Killer in the Rain was published, along with Stephen King‘s Christine and a landmark biography of Bob Dylan — not to mention the Italian edition of Freakonomics and Portuguese edition Super Crunchers. These are mistakes, obviously, and they point to even more troubling errors that bedevil Google’s digital library project, as Geoffrey Nunberg explains. Update | 4:51 p.m. See a response from Google’s metadata team here. [%comments]


I do hope you mean 1983, or Stephen King would truly have accomplished quite a feat! Is he a vampire too?


Woot! Party like it's 1899!


Nina, did you read the whole entry before writing your comment?


Google Books is notorious among librarians for having absolutely atrocious metadata. Without good metadata digitization projects are basically useless, so this is quite troubling.


Isn't it obvious that this is an easily correctable problem that will probably be solved by Google crowdsourcing?

Given a choice between having at least the books contents searchable and not having anything up until everything is tagged correctly, I would easily choose the former.

Science Minded Person


I prefer books-- their smell, taste, feel etc and the ability to correct mistakes, make comments etc as one reads along.

Jon Orwant

I manage Google's metadata team, and responded to Geoff's comments on his blog at http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1701#comment-41758. And by the way, the 1899 problem will be fixed in a week.


Oh, Nina. My dear Nina. Nina, Nina, Nina. In haste to snark, you've come up dark.


Science Minded Person,

Their taste? I mean, I like books as much as the next guy. But I don't go licking my bookshelves.

But seriously, you can have both digital and hard copies of books, one doesn't necessarily exclude the other.


I agree with Andrew (Comment 5). This can be easily solved by allowing many people to edit the meta data and correct errors.

This is what Google did with the Maps site and got very effective, searchable, maps for countries in Asia.

Mary T. Finn

And people believe wholeheartedly whatever they see on the internet. It reminds me of George Orwell's 1984 where corps of history correctors work over-time altering all the books or the famous Candid Camera stunt where they put up a sign on an interstate highway announcing that the state was closed.