Waiting for Google or Google fail Redux

The John Williams who wrote this did not write Stoner
The John Williams who wrote this did not write Stoner

If you have ever perused my website you will know that, for each author on my website, I do a page, which contains a biography, links to other sites about the author and a bibliography, which contains links to books by the author I have reviewed. One of the problems occurs when I have authors with similar names. Being the only person on the planet not have read John Williams’ Stoner I plan to add him to my website. However, when I went to do research on him, I found several authors called John Williams: the Welsh novelist, the African-American novelist, John A Williams, John Sibley Williams, the poet, John Hartley Williams, the Welsh poet, John Richard Williams and the Welsh poet, John James Williams. I did sort them all out as you will see when I eventually get round to reading Stoner.

Kathryn Davis, but not the one who writes about volleyball
Kathryn Davis, but not the one who writes about volleyball

Kathryn Davis is another writer whom I should have added to my website some time ago but better late than never. While exchanging emails with her, she informed me that she was aware of two other writers called Kathryn Davis. (This was prompted by my informing her that I had found six other women called Kathryn Davis born in the US the same year as her.) The first is Kathryn Lynn Davis, a writer of romance novels. (Just to make things more confusing there is a book illustrator and graphic designer called Kathryn Lynn Davis, who also uses the name Nancy Davis which was, of course, the name of Ronald Reagan’s second wife.) The second is Kathryn (L(ouise) Davis who writes about volleyball and fitness. When I Googled the latter, this is “>what I got.

this page. As you will see, the title is Report an issue with a book. Of course, that is not what it means. I made a report to this page. Here is there response:

Thank you for contacting Google and for reporting the incorrect listing of authors for “Kathryn L. Davis”. I apologize for the disruption this has caused in your reading experience.
Our team supports customers who are reading or purchasing books on Google Play (play.google.com). I noticed that the issue you are inquiring about regards Google Books (books.google.com), which is our digitization project.
Because Google Play is a different product from Google Books, we’re unable to offer you support through this channel. We apologize for the inconvenience. However, you may find information about Google Books through the Help Center website at http://support.google.com/books/
If you’re an author or copyright holder who would like to report an issue with a book, please visit the Google Books Partner Program Help Center – http://support.google.com/books/partner/
Should you have additional questions about Google Play products and services, feel free to include them in a direct response to this email and I will gladly assist you further.

In other words, not our problem, despite the misleading heading of their reporting page and the left hand could not possibly forward it to the right hand. You deal with it, because we are Google and too mighty to bother or care. This was signed by Megyn (Google employees do not have last names. It seems to be official policy.) who claims to be The Google Support Team (sic), i.e. not the Google Play Support Team, just the Google Support Team.

I then contacted Google Books and here is their response:

Thank you for notifying us of this issue.

I’ve taken a look at this book, and it’s what we call a scanless book. Scanless books exist in our system as metadata-only records, much like you’d find in a library catalog: the data we have is basic bibliographic information about the book itself (such as the title, author, ISBN, and publication date), and doesn’t include content from the copyrighted pages. You may have noticed that there’s no preview available for this book on Google Books.

The information we display for scanless books is acquired automatically from third-party metadata providers, and we received the metadata for this particular book from Baker, Bowker, Ingram and OCLC WorldCat. We suggest you to contact them so that they can ensure that their records are accurate as well. Any change they make will be reflected on Google Books as soon our records are synced with theirs.

I appreciate your interest in Google Books.

This was signed by Tony, The Google Books Team.

Same message. Polite but still, screw you, not our problem even though it is on their page and not mine.

Wittily enough, they later sent a survey asking how I thought they had done. I told them.

I also responded to Tony and got a reply from Reeta, also of the Google Books team. She said:

Thank you for your reply. We understand your frustration. Please note that we’re pulling this information automatically from the metadata providers, and we can’t change this information manually on our end. Additionally, if these providers are distributing information that might not be correct, it is possible that other websites are also pulling it, which is why the best approach here is to correct the information directly from the sources. We appreciate your understanding.

Clearly Reeta and Tony could not be bothered to contact the sources they suggested.

I had heard of Bowker, Ingram and OCLC WorldCat but not of Baker. Googling showed an evangelical Christian publisher called Baker, though I later learned that it refers to Baker & Taylor (a leading distributor of books, videos, and music products to libraries, institutions and retailers). I had no idea how to contact Bowker, Ingram and OCLC WorldCat. I am a regular user of WorldCat but have had nothing to do with the other two. I perused their websites and they, naturally, had various forms to fill in for various types of contact but it was not clear (at least to me) which was relevant in this case, so I found three likely email address and contacted all three. OCLC have yet to reply. Ingram said they checked the ISBN and it wasn’t them. However, Bowker, in the form of Kristen Stroehmann, Technical Support Consultant II, were wonderful. She acknowledged the issue, admitted it was their problem and very promptly sorted it out and corrected the error. All kudos to Kristen and Bowker/ProQuest. If anyone from Google is reading this (highly unlikely, I know), hire her at once, double her salary and give her the job of Megyn, Tony and Reeta.

Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Google
Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Google

But you may recall that this post is called Waiting for Google. As Samuel Beckett so aptly put it in his version of Waiting for Google, Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful. Once Kristen had got it sorted, I contacted Google again. Here is their response:

Please know that our system pull information from third parties in a periodical manner. If they have updated their records, it should be updated in our records in our next fetch. This may take a month or two.


A month or two? When the EU makes a ruling allowing people to remove criticisms about them from Google search results, they act within a day or two. When it comes to avoiding tax, there is no hesitation. But updating one single page takes a month or two. I have said it before and will say it again. Google is incompetent. Google is evil. Time for Google to go.

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