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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Cataloguing e-books

    In a recent post, Lorcan Dempsey made reference to an article in The Boston Globe by David Weinberger. David draws attention to the fact that far more important than the creation of vast digitized collections of e-books, is the metadata through which we might find titles.

    I say 'might' because, as I have written before, metadata is only as good as its creator and will never be good enough for its users. If metadata is being added to different e-resources (e-books, in this case) by a variety of different individuals and organisations, it is inevitable that the descriptors for even quite simple concepts will vary. The richness and beauty of any language lies in such variety, so that one person's "eagle owl" may be another's "bubo bubo" (to follow David's ornithological theme!). He suggests that this departure from Dewey's structured approach is an escape - to be valued. That "using metadata to assemble ideas and content from multiple sources" is helpful is questionable. Wikis, Swickis and Folksonomies may bring together communities of researchers, but group-classification is doomed to fail the searcher. It can never bring together like items effectively. Publishers need not fear the meta-input of the masses ... except in so far as it fails them - as it fails to attract searchers to their products.

    Microsoft, Macmillan and Google search engines will locate the titles they have each digitized - and if the titles located are still on publishers' lists, this can only create sales. But until metadata is structured and search engines turn plain-language search requests into that structure, finding content on the web will remain a matter of luck.


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