This is about the many dimensions in which your books could live. Books should be clouds of dynamic information all linked together online. That's not to say I don't enjoy reading physical books. I just want to free the information in them as well.
This is how it used to work:
- you've got a bunch of 3x5 cards with a little bit of metadata - author, title, location
- you've got this Dewey Decimal thing to group related books together
- I find the book and jam all the info in its pages into my brain
- the end
In our exciting modern electronic world, we have so far managed to update... the 3x5 cards. They're now an OPAC. That's it.
Wow, hello 21st Century. It's so great that I can look up books in the WebOPAC and then come pick them up in my flying car.
There are so many other dimensions in which your books live.
There is a cloud of information around the author - when did he live? where did he live? who were his friends? what books did he read?
There is a cloud of information around the book - when does it take place / what dates does it talk about? where does it take place? what books were published at the same time? what books does it refer to?
You know what I want? I want to be able to see Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle in Google Earth, and I want to be able to see every location where he identified a species, and then I want to see every paper written about the species that he found. I want to be able to discover that he cited Lyell's work on geology all the time. Click click click.
Can I get part-way there?
Incredibly, yes: Google Earth Community - Charles Darwin's Voyage on the Beagle. Placemarks with brief info about each stop in the voyage. Is your library plugged in to this community? ... I'm guessing no. I think the Google Earth file is amazing already, but that's the work of a single person, drawing on a few websites. What could be done if the entire library community was working on this?
I want every book with time, geographic, or any other information, ever published, linked up dynamically online.
I want to be able to fly over London in Google Earth and see every book ever written IN London, or ABOUT London, or by authors BORN in London, or PUBLISHED in London. I want to see street by street and building by building every reference in every book ever written in any language.
This will eventually happen.
It's not going to happen based on a book record that says e.g.
|LC Control Number:||2003059274|
|Type of Material:||Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)|
|Brief Description:||Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882.|
|Voyage of the Beagle / by Charles Darwin ; with a new introduction by David Quammen.|
|Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society, c2004.|
|xxii, 459 p. : ill., map ; 23 cm.|
|CALL NUMBER:||QH11 .D2 2004|
|-- Request in:||Jefferson or Adams Bldg General or Area Studies Reading Rms|
|-- Status:||Not Charged|
It's going to happen based on mining the full text.
Libraries and librarians could have a huge role in this.
Or, more likely, they could just wait for Google to do it and be shocked! Simply shocked to learn that books contain full text contents that could be used in interesting ways online.
Here's another example.
Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island.
Americans on a balloon? What? Where did he get that mad idea?
Well, I should be able to discover that not only were balloons used in the American Civil War, but that they were probably also top of mind because they had just been used in the Seige of Paris in 1870, and Mysterious Island was published in 1874. I can make these connections myself because I read both Island and Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne. But I don't see any reason why a true world-wide web couldn't make those connections for me, as I flew through the cloud of information around Verne, 1870s, and France.