GBS: Public Index Comment Highlight

Comments over at the Public Index have been quiet with the holidays and the digesting of the amended settlement. But I wanted to call out one comment of interest, by UK author Diana Kimpton, who is concerned about the quality of the links between different editions of the same work in the registry’s database. She writes:

This clause is completely unworkable. It is impossible for an automated database system such as the one at the heart of the Google Book Settlement to indentify which books contain the same Principal Work. Different editions have totally unrelated ISBNs and may not even have the same title. I have been in touch with the database people about this and been told,” The of linking editions is something that is continually being worked on. As mentioned in the last answer, when you file a claim as the rightsholder to a book, whether it be deemed commercially unavailable or available, you control the operative settings to the book. You may direct Google want display settings they are allowed to use for the book. ” (typo is theirs, not mine)

I’ve also spoken to them by phone and got the impression they don’t think that linking the editions is very important. When I quoted this clause, there was a long silence followed by a promise to find out more and phone me back. They haven’t. I suspect that’s because they haven’t got an answer.

Examining the database shows that the non-working of this clause leaves editions of some very high profile books deemed to be not commercially available although it’s easy to buy other editions in the shops.

Gillian Spraggs then adds, “Read 3.2(d)(iii) Mistakes and it’s easy to see why Google doesn’t view this as a priority matter.” That section reads, in part:

If a Book was mistakenly determined by Google not to be Commercially Available, then the Rightsholder of the Book may notify Google … of such mistaken determination. … If the Rightsholder asserts that the Book is Commercially Available, then, as Google’s sole obligation and the Rightsholder’s sole remedy … , Google promptly shall correct the determination as to whether the Book is Commercially Available within thirty (30) days.

Spraggs’s point is that this procedure arguably leaves Google with insufficient incentive either to get the edition-linking right in any particular case, or to develop better edition-linking algorithms in general. Arguments about database flaws are by now familiar, but I though that Kimpton’s personal experience added to that conversation.