Or: When is an identifier not an identifier
Or: Oh yeah, Google is fallible
We have gotten in the habit of using ISBN’s as identifiers for titles (or more accurately, based on how ISBN’s are used, for manifestations as determined by the ISBN authority, which are not quite the same thing as manifestations as determined by us. Anyway).
For instance, the Google Books API allows you to query by ISBN and determine if a book exists in GBS, and at what service level.
Using this service, I (or one of my librarians doing testing, actually) recently ran into an ISBN that seemed to be giving me the wrong book from GBS. At first I thought that GBS had bad metadata, certainly not out of the question. But then I remembered hearing something somewhere about how publishers can re-use ISBNs for different titles. Both of these books were from the same publisher, hmm…
Is in my catalog, on a record for a book titled “Women and marriage in Kpelle society / Caroline H. Bledsoe”, Stanford University Press, LCCN 78066170. (My catalog record has no oclc num in this case). I look up that record in LC cat though, and sure enough it’s got this ISBN in LC too.
In fact, I can’t find any source that lists 0804710198 as a valid ISBN for “Daily Life in Spain…”. Worldcat doesn’t list 0804710198 as an ISBN for the 1979 edition of the Defourneaux book. Neither does LC cat.
So maybe this isn’t a case of a re-used ISBN at all, maybe this is just bad data or a bug in GBS? What do you guys think? Yes, error in GBS?
You think there’s any way for me to report this to GBS, or anyone at Google who would care? Anyone?