Google counts 130 million products to sell (books)

August 6, 2010: 11:27 AM ET

Google may also be creating controversial cataloging issues in its attempt to index the world's information,

Saying they've unearthed a very specific 129,864,880 books (and growing since tallied on Sunday), Google today blogged their method and rationale for counting every book the world has ever produced.

Google (GOOG) has its own special counting method, which may end up being controversial to the world's librarians who've standardized on ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers).  Google contends that ISBNs (and their SBN precursors) have been around only since the mid 1960s, and were not widely adopted until the early-to-mid seventies.   ISBNs are also only used for books that may have a potential for distribution in the Western World.  Google is trying to index every book ever created from Gutenberg and beyond.

What about other well-known identifiers, for example those assigned by Library of Congress (Library of Congress Control Numbers) or OCLC (WorldCat accession numbers)?  Nope, those don't work either.

There are issues with multiple editions of the same book with different forewords for instance.  Some count these once, while others count each individual edition.  And then you have hardcover and softcover versions which often carry separate identifiers. In the near future of electronic books, these differences won't make much of a difference (and can conveniently be all-included).

Do we need another method of cataloging books for the electronic world?  Google explains its methodology here.

But the bigger question: Why is Google so enamored with books?


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