Andrew Orlowski nails it on the continuing saga of the horrendous Google Books metadata in his piece “Google crowdsources card index for ‘humanity’s last library’“.
The issue is this: Serious scholars have found extraordinary errors in the Google Books metadata, the equivalent of the card catalog in a library. (Remember those?) Which means if you’re a digital native high school student and all you’re doing is having a quick search for a cut and paste job to complete “your” term paper remix, you don’t care much about the quality of the metadata because you don’t know Madame Bovary from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. You think Mame is the prequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You don’t know The Hotel New Hampshire from Hotel California.
But scholars do, and they are truly the last repository of the world’s culture, they are supposed to know what the world’s culture was remixed from. So they care about getting it right as opposed to a bunch of Weejun sniffers who just want to get it scanned.
You know who else cares about getting it right? Authors who are supposed to get paid by the sainted Google Books Registry.
So here’s the other aspect of this: If Google screws up the metadata badly enough, they won’t have to pay anyone.
And how does Google propose to fix the problem: Crowd sourcing.
As Andrew Orlowski says in this must-read article, for none of us are as dumb as all of us.