41 Replies Latest reply on Feb 25, 2014 10:34 PM by deesy58

    Free Books -- useless?

    Zeph

      As I find my way around my new HD+ and purchase books from B&N, I've noticed a number of free books available from B&N.  My understanding is that these are mostly books whose copyright has expired, or which are otherwise in the public domain, which Google has scanned as a partof the Google Book Project.  On the surface, this seems a worthwhile, even noble effort at historic preservation.

       

      On downloading several of these free books, however, I've discovered that most of them are so loaded with OCR artifacts as to be virtually unreadable.  What makes this odd, is that many of these books have a description (by B&N? by Google?) that says"

       

      "This is an EXACT reproduction of a book published before 1923.  This is NOT and OCR'd book with strange characters, introduced typographical errors, and jumbled words.  This book may have occasional imperfections." 

       

      Really?  Here's part of the first page from one of these allegedly "exact reproductions" (note that the language is purported to be English):

       

      ====================================

           UPON THK ELKCTKICAL EXPKHIMKiNTS TO

      DETEKMINK

       

          THE LO(!ATION OF THE BULLET IN THE BODY

      OF THE LATE PKEalDENT GAHFIEL1);

       

          AND  UPON *

       

          A SUCCESSFUL FORM OF INDUCTION BALANCE

       

          FOR THE PAINLESS DETECTION OF METALIC

      MASSES

       

          IN THE HUMAN BODY.'

       

          ByAlex AN DEK Graham Bkll.

       

          (A paper reiul iHifore the Ainericnu AHMotriitioti

      for the Advaicement of Soieuce, Ht the Montreal meet-

      ing, AvigUHt, 1882.),

       

          4#-S':'

       

          Thk Hiiujcci of my preHetit paper rei-alli* a time of

      intense excitement and painful 8Usponse.  The long,

      weary struggle with the untimely death-wound--the pro-

      longed suffering borne BO bravely and well by the

      lamented President Garfield--nuist still be fresh in ev-

      ery rec-oUjction.  The wln)le world watched by his bed-

      side, and hopes and fears tilled every pass-ing hour.  No

      one could venture to predict the end so long as the posi-

      tion of the bullet remained unknown.  The bullet might

      become safely encysted, but, on the other hand, recov-

      ery might depend upon its extraction.

       

      ======================================

       

       

       

      Now, I happen to have access to an actual paper copy of this book, courtesy of my local university library.  This is what that page is supposed to look like:

       

       

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

         UPON THE ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTS TO DETERMINE

                           THE LOCATION OF THE BULLET

             IN THE BODY OF THE LATE PRESIDENT GARFIELD;

       

                                         And Upon

       

              A SUCCESSFUL FORM OF INDUCTION BALANCE

          FOR THE PAINLESS DETECTION OF METALLIC MASSES

                            IN THE HUMAN BODY.

       

                           By Alexander Graham Bell.

       

          (A paper read before the American Association for the Advancement of Science,

                                      at the Montreal meeting, August, 1882.)

       

                                      __________________

       

           The subject of my present paper recalls a time of intense

      excitement and painful suspense.  The long, weary struggle

      with the untimely death-wound -- the prolonged suffering borne

      so bravely and well by the lamented President Garfield --

      must still be fresh in every recollection.  The whole world

      watched by his bedside, and hopes and fears filled every pass-

      ing hour.  No one could venture to predict the end so long as

      the position of the bullet remained unknown.  The bullet

      might become safely encysted, but, on the other hand, recovery

      might depend upon its extraction.

       

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

       

       

       

      It's pretty clear what happened here:  the original book was scanned; some things didn't scan quite clearly; the OCR software attempted to interpret what it could; and the final result WAS NOT PROOF READ OR EDITED AT ALL.   As a result, a huge number of errors (which weren't in the original text) have been introduced, and the resulting unintelligible text was released for publication.  I found similar problems with every one of the more than 2 dozen free books I downloaded.

       

      I have to ask, what is the use of doing this??

       

      Simply scanning books for the sake of scanning them has no academic or preservation value if the process is allowed to corrupt the information IN the books into useless gibberish. 

       

      A great number of early scientific papers have been scanned and made available in this way -- again, a noble effort, that fails in the actualization.  I downloaded Einstein's "The Principle of Relativity:  Original Papers."  I happen to have paper copies of these papers, taken from issues of the original journals in which they were published.   In the free eBook edition, NOT A SINGLE EQUATION IS CORRECT -- OCR artifacts have reduced Einstein's theory to kindergarten scribbles.

       

      I suppose that part of the moral here is 'you get what you pay for', and free books are worth exactly what you paid for them -- nothing.

       

      But it does seem to me that Barnes and Noble has a responsibility to its customers:  to make sure that the books it makes available to its customers at least be readable, if not necessarily intelligible.  Right now, it seems pretty clear that absolutely no one is reviewing these texts before flinging them at the public.  Why is B&N even bothering to offer these corrupt and unreadable books?

       

       

        • Re: Free Books -- useless?
          patgolfneb

          Unlike DTB's in the physical stores BN allows access but provides little oversight.  If there are complaints BN occasionally removes these titles.  

           

          There are a number of ways to identify worthwhile free titles.  Third party sites like Book Bub, blogs, including this site and for public domain titles the Guttenberg project. 

            • Re: Free Books -- useless?
              Byteguy

              Free books can be worth quite a lot.  But SOMEONE has to pay for them; either a company hiring people (and passing the cost along to you somehow) or people donating their time.

               

              B&N does the best they can with the limited resources they can afford to devote.

               

              Personally, I head to Project Gutenburg for my "free books."  I've donated to them in the past and I don't want B&N to have to raise prices on its other books to pay for the free books.  You should see Gutenberg's walkthrough about what they go through to make an ebook; it's staggering how much time and work is involved.

               

            • Re: Free Books -- useless?
              flyingtoastr

              Zeph wrote:

              But it does seem to me that Barnes and Noble has a responsibility to its customers:  to make sure that the books it makes available to its customers at least be readable, if not necessarily intelligible.  Right now, it seems pretty clear that absolutely no one is reviewing these texts before flinging them at the public.  Why is B&N even bothering to offer these corrupt and unreadable books?


              We just had this discussion a few weeks ago.

               

              BN can not legally change the content of books they sell, as (even if they are in the public domain) the books are copyrighted material. If the publisher chose to give BN such an atrocious copy, BN can't go through and copyedit it. BN does have a content team that talks to publishers who have issues with their ebooks, but the best they can do is suggest that it be fixed.

                • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                  Swamprat

                  flyingtoastr wrote:

                  Zeph wrote:

                  But it does seem to me that Barnes and Noble has a responsibility to its customers:  to make sure that the books it makes available to its customers at least be readable, if not necessarily intelligible.  Right now, it seems pretty clear that absolutely no one is reviewing these texts before flinging them at the public.  Why is B&N even bothering to offer these corrupt and unreadable books?


                  We just had this discussion a few weeks ago.

                   

                  BN can not legally change the content of books they sell, as (even if they are in the public domain) the books are copyrighted material. If the publisher chose to give BN such an atrocious copy, BN can't go through and copyedit it. BN does have a content team that talks to publishers who have issues with their ebooks, but the best they can do is suggest that it be fixed.


                  Based on the details provided in the original post, it is quite obvious that someone has made rather extensive changes to the original text!!

                  Since I don't know who provided the "free" version, I don't know how copyright applies but I agree that B&N should take some responsibility to avoid making junk like this availabe, even for free - it doesn't help their already suffering image.

                  • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                    DeanGibson

                    flyingtoastr wrote:

                    We just had this discussion a few weeks ago.

                     

                    BN can not legally change the content of books they sell, as (even if they are in the public domain) the books are copyrighted material. If the publisher chose to give BN such an atrocious copy, BN can't go through and copyedit it. BN does have a content team that talks to publishers who have issues with their ebooks, but the best they can do is suggest that it be fixed.


                     Yes, we had a similar discussion.

                     

                    There are two issues here:

                     

                    1. If the original book was copyrighted, and the corrupted copy being sold is in violation of that copyright (by incompetent scanning/editing), then (a) isn't B&N in violation of the original copyright by continuing to sell the book, and (b) is it a violation of the original copyright to restore the text to its original copyrighted content?

                     

                    2. If the original book is not copyrighted, but the corrupted copy is, it seems that B&N could correct it to be back to the original text, and thus be free of the copyright of the corrupted copy.

                     

                    You are saying that B&N has no more clout than its retail customers.  Well, its retail customers, have the power to "blacklist" the publisher from any further purchases.  I'll bet they are doing it in droves after these experiences.

                     

                    Oh wait, B&N has the same power ...

                     

                    Coincidentally, this has been a very public issue since before I bought my first Nook:

                     

                    http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/ongoing-publisher-inattention-to-e-book-quality-is-highly-annoying/

                      • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                        keriflur
                        I believe the books in question are public domain books, so no copyright intrusion applies. However, a case might be made for misrepresentation, as the content does not match what B&N is claiming to sell. Dunno how far one would get with that, though I'd be curious to find out.
                          • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                            patgolfneb

                            I find it hard to believe BN doesn't retain the right to refuse listing to self publishers if a book is junk. I understand that they cannot edit or change copyrighted material. But just as Walmart refuses to sell music or carry a game that it believes is offensive, BN can easily remove books that don't meet minimal production quality. 

                             

                            Why not make contact information to report substandard books clear and remove them. After all not all of these are free books.  I am sure refunds are given on some, mostly $. 99 to $2.99 books with similar problems.  Removing junk means bargain hunters reach the books generating some income more quickly.

                        • Re: Free Books -- useless?

                          flyingtoastr wrote:

                          Zeph wrote:

                          But it does seem to me that Barnes and Noble has a responsibility to its customers:  to make sure that the books it makes available to its customers at least be readable, if not necessarily intelligible.  Right now, it seems pretty clear that absolutely no one is reviewing these texts before flinging them at the public.  Why is B&N even bothering to offer these corrupt and unreadable books?


                          We just had this discussion a few weeks ago.

                           

                          BN can not legally change the content of books they sell, as (even if they are in the public domain) the books are copyrighted material. If the publisher chose to give BN such an atrocious copy, BN can't go through and copyedit it. BN does have a content team that talks to publishers who have issues with their ebooks, but the best they can do is suggest that it be fixed.


                          If it's public domain they absolutely can change the files all they want to. They would just have to take the publisher's name off of them and spend a lot of time proof reading them.

                           

                          In practice, I doubt that it's worthwhile for them to do so.

                        • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                          Zeph

                          Thanks for all the replies, and thanks especially for the pointer to the Gutenberg Project.  I am very interested in any more suggestions as to how to tell the wheat from the chaff as regards free books, as to date, in 36 downloads, all I've obtained from B&N is chaff.  It's been a very disappointing experience so far.

                           

                          A couple of comments seem to have missed my point.  Yes, I know it takes a lot of work to make sure a scanned and OCRed book is reasonably error-free.  But if B&N isn't willing to do that work, or at least to conatract with someone who is willing to do it, I really don't see the point in disseminating corrupt, unreadable texts, even for free.

                           

                          Indeed, I think it is potentially harmful to do so, and I am far from alone in this opinion:

                           

                          http://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2007/google-books-is-it-good-for-history

                           

                          In the case of the Einstein papers -- which are mostly equations -- the original text has been rendered completely meaningless by unedited artifacts, and that's a serious problem.

                           

                          As I noted in the OP, I understand that expecting something for nothing is probably a little overly optimistic.  But in the three weeks I've had my Nook I've also spent over $200 on "for sale" B&N books, so I don't feel too guilty bitching a little about the quality of their free offerings. :smileyhappy:

                           

                           

                            • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                              Wulfraed

                              Zeph wrote:

                               

                              In the case of the Einstein papers -- which are mostly equations -- the original text has been rendered completely meaningless by unedited artifacts, and that's a serious problem.

                               


                              This problem is not restricted to eBooks.

                               

                              A few years ago I bought a print book on electrostatic generators. A rerelease of a book I'd first read in 70 or so.

                               

                              Fortunately the book was not meant to be mathematically rigorous (even if written by a retired university prof) so the garbaged equations weren't fatal. Apparently for the reprint the OCR'd the original hard cover.

                               

                              Oh, and this is a $$ book, not some freebie.

                               

                            • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                              Calenorn

                              Here's one customer's viewpoint:  I've given up looking for free e-books at B&N.  That means I spend less time on their site, which I'm sure isn't what they want. 

                               

                              I, like many people, tried a few of these 'self-published' freebies and had the same experience as the original poster.  The frustration we feel dealing with such shoddy products reflects poorly on Barnes and Noble.  There's no arguing with the chain of logic:  I got it from B&N; it is crap; therefore the B&N store provides some very crappy products.  You can't tell what you're getting; that uncertainty makes me shop elsewhere. 

                               

                              There's no reason B&N should provide bandwidth to the sellers of such products.  It benefits B&N not at all, and risks driving away customers.  After all, who really needs 307 versions of Frankenstein?  And why should B&N let others give them away for free when B&N is trying to sell a very nice "Classics" version for a reasonable price of $4.  How is this good for B&N's business?  Does Wal-Mart provide space in their store for all and sundry to set up a flea market?  Of course not. 

                               

                              I like Barnes and Noble.  I want them to succeed.  But they need to take control of their own web store. 

                               

                               

                                • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                  bobstro

                                  At the risk of providing a possible solution, I'd like to share my experiences with free versions of older texts produced by Google and others. I have found that, in general, the epub versions are garbage, regardless of source. Fortunately, there are often PDF versions of the same texts available. In many cases, the PDFs are searchable and text can be copied freely from the PDF. This may be more suitable for your needs.

                                   

                                  For example, I was able to locate "Relativity: The Special and General Theory" by Albert Einstein on gutenberg.org. If you download the PDF, it's quite readable and appears -- to me at least -- to be a good representation of the original. Text can be selected or searched, but the equations are scanned as images, though quite readable.

                                   

                                  I have an interest in Napoleonic and 19th century sail, and was delighted to discover a trove of period texts available from Google and other sources. In almost every case, PDF is the only format worth bothering with. About half the books are simple scans, but surprisingly many can be searched.

                                   

                                  You do lose out on the nice font selection and formatting options of an epub document with this format, but I find that reading older books in the "original" format rewarding in a subjective way, reminding me that this is a book written before the age of high technology.

                                   

                                  As to how and what Barnes and Noble chooses to populate their web site with, I agree. For some reason, although B&N runs the web site and display their corporate identity at the top of every page, they don't seem particulary concerned about what's on those pages. This cavalier attitude towards their reputation extends to self-published titles as well. Do a search for NOOK Books on just about any topic and you'll quickly run into free and for-sale titles of, to say the least, questionable value (though at bargain prices). I have been surprised how many times I run into porn erotica titles with the first 3-5 pages of results (default search settings, 90 results per page) often "ranked" higher than well-known titles. Try a search on "Santa" sometime.

                                   

                                  As you can see from many of the responses above, B&N absolves itself of any responsibility for self-pub titles, and apparently someone -- I do not know if B&N or others -- has added a large number of titles from gutenberg or other such sites. In doing so, they don't seem to have taken the time to bother to actually skim the text to select the best version, even where multiple formats exist. It may have been an automated process. In any case, it's B&N's web site. If the title is for sale, B&N takes my money. B&N's reputation is at stake. Yet B&N takes the stance that it's all beyond their control, and they're not to blame. 

                                   

                                  I'm sure before long, someone will be along to inform us that Amazon does the exact same thing. I'm not sure what that's supposed to do to improve B&N's reputation as the source for quality ebooks.

                                   

                                  I would not recommend B&N as a source for historical texts, free or otherwise, unless it's a "known good" version produced by a reputable publisher. 

                                • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                  LarryOnLI

                                  People are forgetting how these Google free books are getting to them.

                                   

                                  I remember back when the world was young and my NOOK first edition (which at the time was just called NOOK since it was the only edition) was brand new.

                                   

                                  Google had launched their project to scan every book in existence and make it available and B&N had made the entire Google collection available for NOOK. This was before Google was in the eBook business as a vendor and was not a B&N competitor.

                                   

                                  On the day this multitude of free public domain eBooks became available, the number of eBooks available from B&N jumped by the thousands (if not millions).

                                   

                                  I do not even believe the books are/were stored on B&N servers, instead they were delivered from the Google servers via B&N.

                                   

                                  There is no way possible for B&N (or any company) to check these thousands of eBooks for quality, and frankly why should B&N pay staff to do Google's copy editing for them.

                                   

                                  If B&N were to remove these free Google books from their offerings, people would scream bloody murder that they were being denied access to free books that in some cases are not available from any other source.

                                   

                                  The customer needs to be aware of what they are getting, perhaps there should be a disclaimer on the product page when buying the book.

                                   

                                  Google free eBooks - Scanned and OCRd books with no little to know quality control. Select these books if you can not find the book from any other source.

                                   

                                  Gutenberg free eBooks - Scanned and OCRd books that are then proof read and copy edited by volunteers who generously donate their time. A much better choice for free public domain eBooks. I believe there are other projects that fall into this same category. If you use theses books please donate to Project Gutenberg to help support the fine work they do.

                                   

                                  B&N classics, Penguin Classics, etc - Public domain works that have been professionally edited, and for which you will have to pay. Probably the best quality of public domain eBook you will get and well worth the nominal price charged.

                                   

                                  In terms of selection:

                                   

                                  Google free eBooks - largest selection, lowest quality.

                                   

                                  Project Gutenberg - Smaller selection, much better quality control.

                                   

                                  Big Publisher classics - smallest selection, best quality.

                                   

                                    • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                      patgolfneb

                                      Maybe BN should create a special category for Google project books.  If they were tagged and could be excluded from your book search etc.  That is what people are asking for search help, tagging, labeling, whatever. I  don't want to wade through garbage to find the first book free in a series promotion etc. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect BN to give me some tools, multiple  criteria for my searches. 

                                        • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                          keriflur

                                          Actually, FT, we've not discussed THIS issue.

                                           

                                          There is a huge difference between judging the content of a legible book versus refusing to sell a defective one. Its the same as any other product - a pair of cheap headphones that sound crappy versus don't actually provide sound at all. One is a quality issue, the other is DEFECTIVE. 

                                           

                                          Most stores can't tell if a product is defective before they sell it, but in the case of ebooks, a company can easily see some defects, such as OCR artifacts and some other format translation issues. If a company can reject defective product BEFORE it gets to a consumer, why wouldn't they? Especially when their competition is doing it. 

                                           

                                          I don't think B&N has any place judging writing quality or content, but this is not that. 

                                            • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                              Mercury_Glitch

                                              keriflur wrote:

                                              Actually, FT, we've not discussed THIS issue.

                                               

                                              There is a huge difference between judging the content of a legible book versus refusing to sell a defective one. Its the same as any other product - a pair of cheap headphones that sound crappy versus don't actually provide sound at all. One is a quality issue, the other is DEFECTIVE. 

                                               

                                              Most stores can't tell if a product is defective before they sell it, but in the case of ebooks, a company can easily see some defects, such as OCR artifacts and some other format translation issues. If a company can reject defective product BEFORE it gets to a consumer, why wouldn't they? Especially when their competition is doing it. 

                                               

                                              I don't think B&N has any place judging writing quality or content, but this is not that. 


                                              This I can agree with, some quality control for things before they get in to the shop would be welcome.  Once they get in it's a harder question. 

                                                • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                  keriflur

                                                  Mercury_Glitch wrote:

                                                  keriflur wrote:

                                                  Actually, FT, we've not discussed THIS issue.

                                                   

                                                  There is a huge difference between judging the content of a legible book versus refusing to sell a defective one. Its the same as any other product - a pair of cheap headphones that sound crappy versus don't actually provide sound at all. One is a quality issue, the other is DEFECTIVE. 

                                                   

                                                  Most stores can't tell if a product is defective before they sell it, but in the case of ebooks, a company can easily see some defects, such as OCR artifacts and some other format translation issues. If a company can reject defective product BEFORE it gets to a consumer, why wouldn't they? Especially when their competition is doing it. 

                                                   

                                                  I don't think B&N has any place judging writing quality or content, but this is not that. 


                                                  This I can agree with, some quality control for things before they get in to the shop would be welcome.  Once they get in it's a harder question. 


                                                  Not really. Remove the Buy button and add a red note that the book is not for sale due to formatting defects that rendered it Illegible. "We are working with the publisher to resolve this issue and hope to have the book available again soon."

                                                   

                                                  If the pub doesn't fix in a set timeframe, remove the book from the store. 

                                              • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                keriflur

                                                patgolfneb wrote:

                                                Maybe BN should create a special category for Google project books.  If they were tagged and could be excluded from your book search etc.  That is what people are asking for search help, tagging, labeling, whatever. I  don't want to wade through garbage to find the first book free in a series promotion etc. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect BN to give me some tools, multiple  criteria for my searches. 


                                                There are a LOT of OCRd books from other pubs.

                                              • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                Zeph

                                                LarryOnLI wrote:

                                                There is no way possible for B&N (or any company) to check these thousands of eBooks for quality, and frankly why should B&N pay staff to do Google's copy editing for them.

                                                _____________________________________________

                                                Certainly there is.  In the last three weeks I've downloaded almost 40 eBooks that a simple 5-second visual scan through the first few pages would have revealed to be too full of OCR errors to be readable.

                                                 

                                                But no one has suggested that B&N edit the books -- Google should be doing that.  The suggestion is that B&N needs to so some quality control on the products it offers up on its website.

                                                 

                                                Suppose someone at U-Mich with a grudge against someone in th food chain decided to insert some pages of graphic pronography into a scan of an old Bible, and U-Mich passes that on to Google books, and Google books passes that on to B&N, and B&N posts it for their customers to DL for free.  Arguably there should have been either editing or quality control at least at three stages during this process.  But which part of that chain do you suppose is going to catch the most heat when pious B&N customers discover the porn?

                                                 

                                                _____________________________________________

                                                If B&N were to remove these free Google books from their offerings, people would scream bloody murder that they were being denied access to free books that in some cases are not available from any other source.

                                                _____________________________________________

                                                 

                                                They're available from the Google Book Project.

                                                 

                                                _____________________________________________

                                                The customer needs to be aware of what they are getting, perhaps there should be a disclaimer on the product page when buying the book.

                                                _____________________________________________

                                                Agreed.

                                                 

                                                But this doesn't address the issue of B&N participating in teh dissemination of misinformation and corrupted texts that were alleged supposed to have been "preserved".

                                                 

                                                 

                                                  • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                    MacMcK1957
                                                    A year or so ago, I took a look at a bunch of the free classic books listed on B&N. My impression was that B&N had done some sort of mass upload, years ago, of the entire google books free library. Some looked decent, some were garbage. I assume that was google's work. None had any remotely recent dates on them. If these were all mass uploaded, and B&N just assumed at the time that google had done their work, it would not surprise me at all if in fact B&N hasn't even looked at any of them since.
                                                • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                  patgolfneb

                                                  As a business enterprise you have to wonder why BN is encouraging amateurs.  I  published several short stories, through the now defunct Tulane press many moons ago. My total reimbursement was less than $1000.00. Mostly I established my own lack of talent and the importance of keeping my day job. Despite this I clearly was an amateur. 

                                                   

                                                  Anyone willing to give away their work for free on an extended basis is also an amateur.  Just as many people who play instruments, make crafts, paint etc.  Unlike myself some have considerable talent. Some are just dreamers who don't accept they are not talented enough.  You can see a sampling every year on American Idol auditions. 

                                                   

                                                  A writer with professional aspirations has to write in a disciplined manner and spend many hours editing and re writing .  Almost all new authors rely on a writing group or friends for feedback.  Almost no one serious and disciplined seeks no financial return.  This means legitimate free books are promotional, amateurs or scams, someone after your e mail address or something. BN has no reason to support amateurs or scammers.  Which category do you think unreadable books come from? Serious writers won't jeopardize their hard work with an unreadable book.  BN has every reason to exclude products not produced in a professional manner and to help us avoid those products. 

                                                   

                                                  I recognize that there are exceptions.  I  met  a friend of the author of a Confederacy of  Dunces, at a student writers workshop.  He gave us photo copied versions of his then current draft.  Today he might put it out as a free book and seek feedback. Even then his goal was to be a paid author. In some sense getting paid is recognition of your talent and perseverance. 

                                                    • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                      keriflur

                                                      patgolfneb wrote:

                                                      As a business enterprise you have to wonder why BN is encouraging amateurs.  I  published several short stories, through the now defunct Tulane press many moons ago. My total reimbursement was less than $1000.00. Mostly I established my own lack of talent and the importance of keeping my day job. Despite this I clearly was an amateur. 

                                                       


                                                      They are because Amazon is, and because there are some very successful self-pubbed authors. As you mentioned, some self-pubbers are very talented, and some are excellent at writing stories that sell a lot of copies (those aren't always the talented ones, lol).

                                                       

                                                      $1000 is more than most self-pubbers make, and while low, it's not a terribly uncommon traditional publishing advance.  It sounds like, by today's standards, you did pretty well.

                                                    • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                      LarryOnLI

                                                      Once again.

                                                       

                                                      Google mass scanned the contents of multiple university libraries and ran these images through OCR software to create eBooks.

                                                       

                                                      Their stated objective was to preserve the books and make them available to the public.

                                                       

                                                      Regardless of the OCR errors in the converted eBooks, they have succeeded in preserving the books, because the original scans are retained.

                                                       

                                                      Also, a book with typeset mathematical equations is NEVER EVER EVER (yes I know that is grammatically incorrect) going to OCR correctly. There are limits to the software's abilities.

                                                       

                                                      So these books are the worst possible test case of the Google project.

                                                       

                                                      Finally B&N made the Google project books available as a service to their customers, because people were requesting them.

                                                       

                                                      Would you be happier if these books were just plain not available?

                                                       

                                                      B&N isn't going to put any effort into correcting them, they're free!

                                                       

                                                      Google isn't going to put any effort into correcting them, they're free!

                                                       

                                                      Your choice are to have them available for download from B&N, or not to have them.

                                                       

                                                        • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                          bobstro

                                                          Again, the PDF versions of many of the older titles available from Google are fine. Why can't/won't B&N put up the most usable version of the scanned files?

                                                           

                                                          I'd be more receptive to the "it's free, what do you want?" argument if we had a way to filter out such results. B&N touts free titles in their advertising, so I do think they still have some obligation to weed out garbage, even if they let the community do it via crowdsourcing. Right now it's:

                                                           

                                                          "Free salad if you eat here!"

                                                          "There's a fly in my lettuce."

                                                          "Well it's free, so you should expect that.  You can have edible salad, but that will cost you".

                                                           

                                                          B&N is advertising free books as a benefit. Pulling the "it's free" card only generates a feeling of being duped.

                                                           

                                                          I get it. They're free. When I'm looking for something specific, having dozens of pages of such "related" results isn't helpful if it's already known that they're garbage. If some sort of flag usable for filtering were available, it'd give B&N an opportunity to post a disclaimer. As it is now, people (myself included when I first signed up) download these titles having no idea of their history and wonder how the garbage wound up displayed under B&N's corporate logo. Now that I know what they are, I'd love to just avoid them.

                                                           

                                                           

                                                          • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                            keriflur

                                                            LarryOnLI wrote:

                                                             

                                                            Finally B&N made the Google project books available as a service to their customers, because people were requesting them.

                                                             


                                                            And that's great for the ones that are readable. But for the others? No.

                                                             

                                                            If a copy from a non-Google publisher is available, B&N can simply deny the book's entry into the store. For a book for which there is no other publisher, B&N can list the book in the store with the "Unfortunately this book is not available because" message.

                                                             

                                                            What this comes down to, ultimately, is this :B&N is carrying products in their store that are clearly defective and they are doing nothing about it. Would you shop at your local grocery store if you knew that all the milk was rotten, and no one was going to get new milk in, they were just going to keep selling the rotten stuff? Would you shop at your local clothing store if you knew that their clothes fell apart after the first wash?

                                                             

                                                            No store should knowingly carry defective product, and continue to offer that product to customers.

                                                              • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                LarryOnLI

                                                                keriflur wrote:

                                                                LarryOnLI wrote:

                                                                 

                                                                Finally B&N made the Google project books available as a service to their customers, because people were requesting them.

                                                                 


                                                                And that's great for the ones that are readable. But for the others? No.

                                                                 

                                                                If a copy from a non-Google publisher is available, B&N can simply deny the book's entry into the store. For a book for which there is no other publisher, B&N can list the book in the store with the "Unfortunately this book is not available because" message.

                                                                 

                                                                What this comes down to, ultimately, is this :B&N is carrying products in their store that are clearly defective and they are doing nothing about it. Would you shop at your local grocery store if you knew that all the milk was rotten, and no one was going to get new milk in, they were just going to keep selling the rotten stuff? Would you shop at your local clothing store if you knew that their clothes fell apart after the first wash?

                                                                 

                                                                No store should knowingly carry defective product, and continue to offer that product to customers.


                                                                You keep referring to "selling" as if you purchased something.

                                                                 

                                                                This was a free book. B&N made no profit off of it.

                                                                 

                                                                Sorry, but the way I see it an over developed sense of entitlement is at play here.

                                                                 

                                                                  • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                    keriflur

                                                                    LarryOnLI wrote:

                                                                    keriflur wrote:

                                                                    LarryOnLI wrote:

                                                                     

                                                                    Finally B&N made the Google project books available as a service to their customers, because people were requesting them.

                                                                     


                                                                    And that's great for the ones that are readable. But for the others? No.

                                                                     

                                                                    If a copy from a non-Google publisher is available, B&N can simply deny the book's entry into the store. For a book for which there is no other publisher, B&N can list the book in the store with the "Unfortunately this book is not available because" message.

                                                                     

                                                                    What this comes down to, ultimately, is this :B&N is carrying products in their store that are clearly defective and they are doing nothing about it. Would you shop at your local grocery store if you knew that all the milk was rotten, and no one was going to get new milk in, they were just going to keep selling the rotten stuff? Would you shop at your local clothing store if you knew that their clothes fell apart after the first wash?

                                                                     

                                                                    No store should knowingly carry defective product, and continue to offer that product to customers.


                                                                    You keep referring to "selling" as if you purchased something.

                                                                     

                                                                    This was a free book. B&N made no profit off of it.

                                                                     

                                                                    Sorry, but the way I see it an over developed sense of entitlement is at play here.

                                                                     


                                                                    Where in "B&N is carrying products in their store that are clearly defective and they are doing nothing about it." or "No store should knowingly carry defective product, and continue to offer that product to customers." do I use the word "Selling"?

                                                                     

                                                                    Are these examples more appeasing to you?

                                                                    Here's some free milk, but you can't drink it because it's spoiled.

                                                                    Here's a free t-shirt.  Yeah, we know it doesn't have any arm or neck holes.  But hey, it's free, so we can call it anything we want.

                                                                     

                                                                    Giving away spoiled food and other things that are useless to anyone is just dumb, plain and simple.  If I were at the market and they were giving away rotten fruit, and told me that I could buy good fruit inside, I'd wonder at the intelligence of the people running the market.  I'd find it offensive that they offered me rotten fruit and I'd wonder why they didn't get rid of it.  And I'd be annoyed that they wasted my time by showing me the rotten fruit in the first place.

                                                                     

                                                                    If you've got the time to sift through all that crap, knock yourself out.  But if B&N wants to offer a premium experience, and they should, because that will help them sell their $$ product, they should get rid of all the rotten fruit.

                                                                      • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                        lochnez

                                                                        I'm a proponent of the "you get what you pay for" philosophy, but I'm coming to see the validity of the "seller's responsibility" argument as well. The grocery store analogy, while spurious at best, does point to responsibility. Stores regularly remove expired perishables from their shelves, be they fruits and vegetables, meats, or dairy products. And they don't try to fob them off on the unsuspecting public.

                                                                         

                                                                        While there may be legal reasons for not editing and financial reasons for not validating the quality of every ebook, I believe there is a responsibility to the customer. If the book, free or not, is found to be defective and reported as such, B&N should have a mechanism whereby:

                                                                         

                                                                        1) the customer's concern is addressed

                                                                        2) the questionable book is examined

                                                                        3) the book is removed or flagged

                                                                        4) the publisher/author is requested to fix the problem

                                                                         

                                                                        It appears, from what I've read so  far that B&N does not do any of these (correct me if I'm wrong Merc and FT). If that is the case, then B&N is not fulfilling a basic responsibility to their customers, that of offering good product. This does not make them evil, only corporate (although the two can be synonymous). It also does not make them unique. I defy you to find a major retailer who never proffers defective product or fails to address it when found.

                                                                         

                                                                        We, as customers, also bear the responsibility of reporting defective product and seeking redress through official channels. Coming here and complaining bitterly only assuages your hurt feelings. The problem is, B&N does not seem to have those channels open. We need to, politely, request that they be opened.

                                                                          • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                            MacMcK1957

                                                                            ... If the book, free or not, is found to be defective and reported as such, B&N should have a mechanism whereby: ...

                                                                             

                                                                            First they would need a mechanism for reporting it, wouldn't they?

                                                                            • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                              keriflur

                                                                              lochnez wrote:

                                                                              I'm a proponent of the "you get what you pay for" philosophy, but I'm coming to see the validity of the "seller's responsibility" argument as well.


                                                                              I'm also a proponent of "you get what you pay for" but I think there's a difference between poor-quality items and defective items.  IMO if you download a free book and you think the writing is poor, then you got what you paid for, but if you download a free book and you can't read it because the text is gibberish, then you got a defective product.

                                                                               


                                                                              lochnez wrote:

                                                                              I defy you to find a major retailer who never proffers defective product or fails to address it when found.


                                                                              In the case of ebooks, Amazon employs/ed humans (I assume they are now using technology also, because they were trying to move away from using humans as KDP grew) to look at everything that is submitted to KDP, in part to block gibberish from getting into the system.  I'm not going to say they block every gibberish book, but they do make a solid effort to keep these defective books out of their store.

                                                                              • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                                flyingtoastr

                                                                                lochnez wrote:

                                                                                 

                                                                                While there may be legal reasons for not editing and financial reasons for not validating the quality of every ebook, I believe there is a responsibility to the customer. If the book, free or not, is found to be defective and reported as such, B&N should have a mechanism whereby:

                                                                                 

                                                                                1) the customer's concern is addressed

                                                                                2) the questionable book is examined

                                                                                3) the book is removed or flagged

                                                                                4) the publisher/author is requested to fix the problem

                                                                                 


                                                                                They have all of these in place. However, it's all done internally. 

                                                                                 

                                                                                Again, if you have a problem with an ebook that is defective, take your NOOK into a store, find someone competent (which, granted, can be a problem given that most of the people halfway good at their jobs are quitting BN to join companies that pay better than minimum wage), and inform them of the error. They'll most likely download it onto a store NOOK or two to make sure it isn't a problem with your device, and then either call Store Support or email Store Operations to escalate the issue to the content team.

                                                                                 

                                                                                I doubt you'll get anywhere with the free OCR books though. It's on the onus of the publisher to fix the titles, and Google has shown that they have absolutely no interest in doing so.

                                                                                 

                                                                                If you'd like to give feedback that the availabily of the OCR books is damaging BN's brand and responsible for their continually eroding market position, you can also do that at the same time.

                                                                                  • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                                    Zeph

                                                                                    flyingtoastr wrote:

                                                                                    If you'd like to give feedback that the availabily of the OCR books is damaging BN's brand and responsible for their continually eroding market position, you can also do that at the same time.


                                                                                    And I've done that, also.  The universal response has been, "um... ok... I'll pass that on to the manager," except when I actually talked to the manager, who said "um ... ok... I'll pass that on to corporate."

                                                                                     

                                                                                    Whether or not any of them actually did pass anything on, I don't know.  But when I finally approached the store manager, I did not get the impression from him that he had heard the complaint previously from the four B&N peons who said they were going to pass my comments on to him.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    But maybe he's just a good poker player.

                                                                                     

                                                                                     

                                                                                  • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                                    Zeph

                                                                                    lochnez wrote:

                                                                                    We, as customers, also bear the responsibility of reporting defective product and seeking redress through official channels. Coming here and complaining bitterly only assuages your hurt feelings. The problem is, B&N does not seem to have those channels open. We need to, politely, request that they be opened.


                                                                                    I have attempted to do this, but found no channels through which to do so.  Amazon and eBay have simple, clearly visible means by which defective or inappropriate products may be brought to their attention.  (Whether they actually act on such complaints is a separate issue...)  B&N does not. 

                                                                                     

                                                                                    There is no link on any of the pages I've seen these books on by which the book could be reported as defective, inappropriate, or even mislabeled (I DL-ed one alleged work of American fiction that contained a 1912-vintage geological survey of iron ore deposits in Norway between its eCovers).

                                                                                     

                                                                                    The closest one can come to exposing these corrupted texts is to write reviews of them, and I did write several.  But then I found out that B&N reviews, unlike Amazon reviews, do not follow the edition being reviewed.  Any review of a title apparently appears as a review of all books with that title by the same author.  It does no one any good when a review I post citing a corrupted, unreadable edition appears in the list of reviews for an intact, uncorrupted edition of the same title.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    I actually broke down and wrote a real, on-paper letter to B&N about this problem.  That was a month ago; thus far I've received neither reply nor acknowledgement.

                                                                                      • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                                        deesy58

                                                                                        Zeph wrote:

                                                                                        I have attempted to do this, but found no channels through which to do so.  Amazon and eBay have simple, clearly visible means by which defective or inappropriate products may be brought to their attention.  (Whether they actually act on such complaints is a separate issue...)  B&N does not. 

                                                                                         

                                                                                        There is no link on any of the pages I've seen these books on by which the book could be reported as defective, inappropriate, or even mislabeled (I DL-ed one alleged work of American fiction that contained a 1912-vintage geological survey of iron ore deposits in Norway between its eCovers).

                                                                                         

                                                                                        The closest one can come to exposing these corrupted texts is to write reviews of them, and I did write several.  But then I found out that B&N reviews, unlike Amazon reviews, do not follow the edition being reviewed.  Any review of a title apparently appears as a review of all books with that title by the same author.  It does no one any good when a review I post citing a corrupted, unreadable edition appears in the list of reviews for an intact, uncorrupted edition of the same title.

                                                                                         

                                                                                        I actually broke down and wrote a real, on-paper letter to B&N about this problem.  That was a month ago; thus far I've received neither reply nor acknowledgement.


                                                                                         

                                                                                        So ... to whom did you write the letter?  If you really want results, write to the CEO or, better yet, to the Chairman of Barnes and Noble, Inc.  His name, by the way, is Mr. Leonard Riggio III.  You can pretty much expect to see a response if you address your letters to those with the authority to do something about solving the problems. 

                                                                                  • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                                    Zeph

                                                                                    LarryOnLI wrote:
                                                                                    You keep referring to "selling" as if you purchased something.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    This was a free book. B&N made no profit off of it.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    Sorry, but the way I see it an over developed sense of entitlement is at play here.

                                                                                     


                                                                                    If your local supermarket routinely gave away free samples of milk, bread, and cheese, and most of the milk was sour, most of the bread was moldy, and most of the cheese was full of maggots -- would you be more or less inclined to go into the store and purchase their for sale milk, bread, and cheese?

                                                                                • Re: Free Books -- useless?
                                                                                  Zeph

                                                                                  LarryOnLI wrote:

                                                                                  Once again.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Google mass scanned the contents of multiple university libraries and ran these images through OCR software to create eBooks.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Their stated objective was to preserve the books and make them available to the public.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Regardless of the OCR errors in the converted eBooks, they have succeeded in preserving the books, because the original scans are retained.


                                                                                   For certain extremely minimal values of "preservation", that's true.  But its trivially true.  They have not preserved books and made them available to the public if the allegedly preserved version differs from the version made available to the public.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Furthermore, it's higly questionable whether "preserved" is the proper term here, when thousands (tens of thousands?) of corrupted copies are circulated to the public, while a single "preserved" scan is located in some private library inaccessible to the public.

                                                                                   

                                                                                   


                                                                                  Also, a book with typeset mathematical equations is NEVER EVER EVER (yes I know that is grammatically incorrect) going to OCR correctly. There are limits to the software's abilities.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  So these books are the worst possible test case of the Google project.


                                                                                  Sure.  That would be a good reason for exercising some editorial judgement as to which books are appripriate subjects for the project, and which are not.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Just going into a library and scanning everything in sight under such conditions is more of an effort at self-aggrandizement than at serious preservation.  80% (at least) of the books in the library at the science and engineering university I attended as an undergraduate were filled with mathematical equations.

                                                                                    

                                                                                   


                                                                                  Finally B&N made the Google project books available as a service to their customers, because people were requesting them.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Would you be happier if these books were just plain not available?


                                                                                   Unreadable as they are, for all practical purposes they are not available.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Their primary function seem to be to serve as an advertising blurb (of questionable merit) for B&N

                                                                                   

                                                                                   

                                                                                   


                                                                                  B&N isn't going to put any effort into correcting them, they're free!


                                                                                  B&N isn't responsible for scanning them, so B&N isn't responsible for correcting them.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  What B&N is responsible for, is practicing a reasonble level of quality control over the products it makes available to its customers.  Free products are products nonetheless.

                                                                                   


                                                                                  Google isn't going to put any effort into correcting them, they're free!


                                                                                   

                                                                                  Ah, but Google it heading an alleged preservation  project, which has a mission, goals, and objectives.  And that mission, at least, is failing miserably.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  I suppose, it they're spending only thier own funds on the project, and they really don't give a rap about quality, then it really doesn't matter for them.  But if they were or are getting any grant monies to pursue this project, I would think them in danger of their grantors pulling out their funds.  Grantors are notoriously interested in seeing quartelry reports, containing measurable outcomes, which demonstrate that the mission of the project is succeeding.

                                                                                   

                                                                                   

                                                                                   


                                                                                   

                                                                                  Your choice are to have them available for download from B&N, or not to have them. 


                                                                                  Which, given present conditions, is nothing more than saying that they are not available.
                                                                                  An unreadable book isn't worth the time it takes to download.  And a corrupted text is not a preservation of the original.