Paul Duguid has written an intriguing assessment of Google Books and their treatment of Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. The choice of Shandy is especially interesting because it is a work of fiction that also experiments with the form of the book—the blank page, the black page, Greek text, footnotes, etc. and so acts as a good test of Google’s ability to accurately capture both form and content. Duguid’s conclusions speak to the challenges that face Google or anyone else who wants to undertake a mass conversion from one media to another:
…it may be Google’s technicians, and not librarians, who are the great romanticisers of the book. Google Books takes books as a storehouse of wisdom to be opened up with new tools. They fail to see what librarians know: books can be obtuse, obdurate, even obnoxious things. As a group, they don&amp;amp;rsquo;t submit equally to a standard shelf, a standard scanner, or a standard ontology. Nor are their constraints overcome by scraping the text and developing search algorithms.
Inheritance and loss? A brief survey of Google Books, by Paul Duguid.
(via O’Reilly Radar)