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Google isn’t perfect

On the mantelpiece in my office (yes, dear reader, I have a fireplace in my office: one advantage of life in a building that I’ve heard described as “like something out of a Raymond Chandler novel”) is a blue gumby clock that the people at Google sent me. It came with a note apologizing for the delay in uploading our books or converting files.

I find this reassuring. Even huge, rich, and very smart Google can’t figure out how to handle books. I’ll smile at the London Book Fair next week when I see the signs telling publishers to “leave your books with us” to get them into the book search program. I’ve tried at least three times to get one of our encyclopedia–the one on Human-Computer Interaction, ironically–into the Google Print program. We mailed a set; it went missing. We uploaded PDFs according to instructions, twice. Still no go.

What happens to the missing books? Google isn’t, surely, selling them on eBay, and I can’t imagine employees sneaking them out of the building under their jackets. I think it must be like socks, which disappear into another dimension. That’s what happens to books at Google.

Here are a few lines from the latest Google email:

Dear Google Book Search Partner,

If you do not submit books to Google Book Search in PDF format, please disregard this message.

If you have used the PDF Uploader in the past, or plan to in the future, please read on.

We have discovered that some PDFs with spaces in their file names or not properly named with the ISBN according to the naming convention, have not uploaded successfully to Google Book Search. For more information on our file naming guidelines, visit

We are now releasing a new version of the PDF Uploader which corrects that problem.

However, if you have uploaded PDFs in the past, and your PDFs were not named according to our guidelines, we may not have received your files.

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