» The trouble with Google Books
is a surprisingly interesting article about the importance of metadata - and the ways in which Google's culture of innovation has potentially destroyed the value of the Last Library.
Google Books was conceived of in two ways. The first is as a new library -- I call it the "last library" -- an aggregate of all the libraries in the world. The second is as a big database, a storehouse of information that you could search the way you search Google. The idea behind that is that books are just stored information. If I want to know who wrote Roosevelt's inaugural speech, I can do a search and look it up.
But those two ideas are at odds with each other, which is something that Google didn't realize. The beauty of Google is that you don't need metadata, after all. You just barrel into the text and pull out what you want. So metadata -- information about the source text -- was not something they focused on.
More from Dr. Nunberg here and here.