ImagesThe Bookseller is reporting that a mistake by Bowker could cause thousands of titles listed in Google Books to be attributed to the publisher BGR. Evidently Google Books was alerted to this problem a year ago, but it persists.

Book data is provided to Google Books by Bowker. Sharon Lubrano, Bowker general manager, explained that the BPR abel is an internal code used by Bowker to indicate that the publisher information is unknown.

She said: “The code was not meant to be used externally; rather it is an internal cue that prompts us to explore further to get information on a title.” Unfortunately, the code was included in some information streams to Bowker’s customers, which included Google Books. …

Hopkins [of Children’s Story Publishers, who found the error] was concerned about how the error could be affecting publishers’ sales. He said: “If a parent wants to buy a book for their child and can’t quite remember all the details, Google Books is somewhere they might look, but our titles would be attributed to the publisher BPR. We are not sure how many times that’s happened and how many sales we and other publishers have lost as a result.”


  1. Sigh! Yet another indication among many that Google, like Amazon and Apple, doesn’t really understand books. They know nothing about all the details of creating, editing, and distributing them or the complexities of the book ecosystem. For Amazon, books are just another commodity to be bought cheaply, sold and shipped from giant warehouses. For Google and Apple, they’re just bytes in a row, little different from the computer programs that they’re more familiar with. Data they understand. Books they don’t.

    Google is clearly the worst. The original Google Book Settlement would have stripped every author of an out-of-print book on the planet of his US copyright based on a bizarre use of US class action law and done so without his knowledge or permission. When that fact finally managed to leak past a clueless tech media, it provoked a reaction from foreign governments. In the revised settlement only authors in a few countries with US-type class action laws will get ripped off, and then only if a Manhattan judge belatedly buys Google’s arguments. Let’s hope he doesn’t. The real problem is the Berne Convention, which governs international copyright, has not been revised in over 30 years. This fuss with Google is a distraction from fixing that.

    Google’s appearance of cluelessness about books is perhaps the worst. Their claim that in some mysterious fashion the presence of an author’s book in Google’s search engine would lead to publishers rushing to bring that book back into print. Yeah, like any publisher is going to be eager to market a product that someone else is giving away.

    For the record, I was one of seven authors whose letter to the court lead to the delay in the Google settlement process which permitted opposition to develop and that forced the settlement to be revised.

    The harm Amazon and Apple are inflicting comes from a different angle. They’re are behaving like two rich kids on an empty lot surrounded by poor kids who just want to play baseball. One owns all the balls and the other all the bats. Both are insisting that the game must be played their way and by their rules, hence all the exclusive technology, the DRM, the restrictive contracts, and so forth that are fragmenting the digital book market and forcing publishers to make dumb moves (like agency pricing) to avoid worse alternatives.

    At times I feel like running down the street screaming at the top of my voice. Then I calm myself down and make blog posts like this one. Now I feel better.

  2. I’m not sure how many “lost sales” would result from a parent looking for a book (through retail channels, presumably) and not being able to identify the publisher through Google. If they know how to use Google, they can probably locate a reseller by the book’s title, and don’t need to know the publisher. I think Hopkins (and by extension, the title of this post–sorry, Paul!) is a bit alarmist.

    That said, it sounds like an error that can be relatively easily fixed…

  3. Don’t blame Google too much, yes they Knew about it nearly a year ago, we told them 23 Feb 2010 and had a confirmation email, but nothing changed.

    Apparently Google can’t edit the data, it’s all down to Bowker.

    Bowker’s false data is a World Wide problem affecting some more than others for example: report just 25 titles, Barnes and Noble 4,247 titles, Google Books 126,000 records (earlier this week)
    Bowker may see the problem as an insignificant percentage, but for the many small
    publishes involved (like us) it could make the difference between life and death. Consumers
    and Trade Buyers are not tolerant of wild goose chases looking for books, they rightly give
    Bowker may see the data problem as an accident, we and no doubt others will see it as something else.

    We are still strugling to understand how the false data problem existed for so long escaping all checks, verification and due dilligence, it’s hard to believe no one else (world wide) noticed and complained except us, over the year(s).

    Another big issues, Bowker is the USA ISBN Agent for the international system, but appears unwilling to get reliable data from it’s brother agents in other countries, instead getting data from little known, down the line of soldiers, third parties.

    There’s an argument for enforcing good practice from the ISBN HQ in London

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