How variant editions can screw up Google Books links

As we’ve mentioned in the blog before, you can link to the full text of many, many resources cited in In fact, with a recent addition of a file containing tens of thousands of online ship images, nearly 90% of the citations provide full-text linking. Much of the linking comes through links to online resources, but others are available via links to books in Google Book Search.

A few weeks ago, several of us at ShipIndex were using some of these links, and found that many links for Sherry Sontag’s book Blind Man’s Bluff didn’t seem to work. While the links took one to the page cited in the index, the vessel mentioned in the index wasn’t listed on the page that we ended up at in Google Books. So today I picked up a copy of Blind Man’s Bluff from my local public library, to see if I’d made a lot of mistakes in working through the index.

I found that, in fact, I hadn’t made any mistakes – the page numbers in ShipIndex were the same as the page numbers listed in the back of the book. So then I re-tried some of the Google Book links we offer. Once again, a link to page 57 took me to page 57, but USS Halibut wasn’t mentioned on page 57 in Google. So I checked the copy I’d gotten from the library. That’s where I discovered the problem.

The copy from my public library, and the copy I’d originally used when creating the file to add to ShipIndex, came from the first publication of the book, by Public Affairs, a division of Perseus Books, and first published in 1998. But the copy on Google Books is the paperback edition, published by HarperCollins, in 1999, and the pagination, layout, and nearly every other aspect is completely different between the two. The HarperCollins version has 432 pages, while the Perseus version has 352. While the content may be exactly the same, the pagination is obviously different, so linking doesn’t work the way it should.

So now it seems that, in order to make the Google Books linking continue to work, I need to find an index to the HarperCollins edition of the book, and replace the index I’d compiled from the Public Affairs edition. It’s likely not a big deal to get done, but I thought it was an interesting problem that we may come up against more and more in the future.

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