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On September 22nd Google Books announced its expanded Google Book Search API, which includes the ability to preview and search Google Books content from other web sites.

Bookworm now has integration with one part of this API. The Book Information page (available from the table of contents for each Bookworm book), displays results from the Google Book Search service for that title and author.

Anne of Green Gables results from Google Book Search

Anne of Green Gables results from Google Book Search

How good are the results?

Frankly I’m disappointed. The metadata is often sloppy: description fields are sometimes nonsensical, there are numerous spacing errors in which words run together, and there is much more data available when you click through to the Google Books page than was returned by the API.

Nevertheless, I have decided to include the data in this single place per book, to help Bookworm users find print editions of their ebooks (especially for public domain books).

The identifier problem

This latest API is not the first that Google Books released, but it is the first that allows arbitrary search queries (such as for title and author name). The previous version only allowed searches by ISBN.

The ePub standard requires that ebooks be tagged with a unique identifier but does not specify what that identifier is. Obviously public domain and non-books don’t have ISBNs. Some publishers are assigning an ISBN as the ePub identifier, but using unique ISBNs for their digital editions. It would be nice if I could uniquely tie the ePub version of a book on Bookworm to its print counterpart (and leverage powerful Google features like searching that book content), but that’s not going to be possible when the editions have different ISBNs. Similarly it would be difficult to encourage users to buy a print version from Amazon or other retailers without running the risk of pointing to an older edition or one by a different publisher.

Tags: dublin core, EPUB, Google, google books, identifier, isbn,

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