revisting relevance

I was poking around on Amazon.com today and noticed two things

  1. They have changed my name from Jessamyn Charity West to Jessamyn West which means that clicking on my name gets you all the books by the other Jessamyn West. I can only imagine why this happened and, to be fair, they would be changing it back to how it was before. I complained and they changed it, but not before telling me that this sort of munging of author names was “a feature” of their system. The change is recent, the Google cache still contains my full name.
  2. Amazon’s Statistically Improbable Phrases which is a whole new approach to the sticky issue of “aboutness” Add ot this the existing tools of concordance and readibility and you’ve got two things 1) strong “keeping up with the Joneses” pressure to submit to the Inside the Book program 2) the beginnings of cataloging by robots.

This all came to me a day after getting a fat envelope from Sandy Berman which included, among other things some articles he had written about “bibliocide by cataloging” where subject headings assigned by OCLC or LoC or OCLC member libraries and passed down to thousands of libraries via copy cataloging are so vague as to be essentially useless as finding aids. Do these Amazon features solve this problem or compound it? Eli also expands a bit on what I said about Google a few days ago; these issues are not disconnected.

“Why catalog in-house? Why catalog locally? And why not outsource the whole operation? Because critical, creative catalogers within individual systems are the last and only bulwarks against the often error-laden, access-limiting, and alienating records produced by giant, distant, and essentially unaccountable networks and vendors.”

Harriet Klausner, book reader/reviewer, librarian

Of course Amazon.com’s most prolific reviewer has an MLS. [thanks natalia]