Posted [http://inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2008/a-useful-amplification-of-records-that-are-unavoidably-needed-anyway/] on the In The Library With a Lead Pipe blog is an interesting overview of Amazon, Google, LibraryThing, WorldCat, and Open Library and how they may fit into the library universe that has been excerpted here:
“Depending on books can feel like relying on snail mail. “Now that I’ve showed you how to find some articles,” I say to people at the reference desk, “I’ll show you how to use our website to find some books you might want to check out. And after that, wouldn’t it make your grandmother’s day if you wrote her a letter?”
For anyone accustomed to the Internet, books can lack the immediacy of articles or websites. Books generally have slower developing narratives, and often have longer paragraphs, sentences, and words, which means they don’t lend themselves to skimming. Compared to digital material, relevant passages can be hard to find, and even finding the right book can be challenging.
Although library websites are improving, keyword searching doesn’t work well at most libraries and faceted browsing—the links down the left side of the page on Amazon—is still a rarity. More importantly, with one notable exception, there is a good chance that nothing on the shelf that is ‘printed on paper and constructed on the model of the codex’ includes the exact information you have in mind.
This is where universal catalogs come into play. If there’s nothing on the shelf that meets your needs, the next step is to figure out if such a book exists. There are five websites that provide relatively complete and easily accessible lists of books: Amazon, Google, LibraryThing, WorldCat, and Open Library. In order to make the best use of these websites, it can be useful to learn how each of them started, what keeps them going, and how their business models and practices affect the data they collect and and how they go about sharing it…”