Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Books

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Not so useful and misleading information in book templates[edit]

Can someone please explain the rationale for including the following things in articles about books, namely: an OCLC number, ISBN, Dewey classification (regardless of edition), and full LC classification. I get a strong impression every time I see these things that whoever's doing this does not understand how either of them actually works or what they are for. Putting them in will not help someone find them in their local library without first consulting the library's catalogue, as some seem to think (I've been told this was why they were there by one editor, so people could go find them). Take the article for Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. That novel has run through probably thousands of editions by now, in many English-speaking countries. The OCLC number which is there in the article is not some universal unique number for that book, now and forever: it is not "the number" for the novel! It is a number assigned by OCLC to one particular MARC record for one particular edition of the novel, published in 2003--of itself, that is no use to the casual reader of this article. The reader cannot jot down the number, take it to the library and find that book with it. The most one can do is click on the link and discover (wonder of wonders) a record for the edition of the book published in 2003--considerably less informative than the article the reader has at hand, one assumes. The ISBN is even less useful, and again, there is no single ISBN which somehow "represents" the novel--so what is the point of including one from 2003, 1975, or 2016? What does it matter--what's it for?

We should not be cluttering up articles with data for its own sake, particularly when that data adds nothing to the article. Similarly, the LC classification given in the box is for a particular edition of the novel published, again, in 2003. You can see the 2003 in the classification itself. When it comes to literature, Dewey, at least, is a bit more justified, in that there is no date or variable Cutter number as there is with LC. But outside of literature, Dewey classifications, as LC ones, can vary considerably from one cataloguer or institution to another, and they can vary even more across editions of Dewey, which are issued every 4-5 years. All this strikes me as rather a lot of trainspotting, in that the information is jotted down for its own sake, the information is apparently chosen arbitrarily if not completely randomly, and its purpose is utterly mystifying rather than edifying to the casual reader of the encyclopedia. Sorry if I took a long time to say this, but this has been bothering me a long time, and I've never been sure till today where I could bring up the question. I strongly urge us to consider why a template has been created for these pieces of information about a work which exists in multiple formats--which can never adequately accommodate the breadth of diversity of data in those formats. I believe strongly that these articles do not need that data and are in fact worse for having them. ZarhanFastfire (talk) 07:13, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

I might further add, from the same example, that whoever is doing this does not understand that the numbers they've added to the Dewey class (22) are for the edition of Dewey (that's an older edition) and that the slash is not part of the official classification scheme--it's something various agencies put in so that a local library cataloguer has a place to abbreviate if they want, or where to break along the spine. As well, many public libraries who use Dewey don't actually use the system for their fiction--they just have fiction sections or genre fiction sections and then arrange by author and/or title. So again I ask, what's all this for? Same thing with the page count--who bloody cares that the 1949 American edition is so many pages? Is that the edition being referenced in the body of the text where an editor has written what happens on "page 222" or something similarly daft? How likely is it that a reader of the encyclopedia anywhere in the world has that edition to hand, even if that's the one being cited (which is not likely)? See what I mean? All this stuff is just so much clutter--worse still, it is actively misleading. Some might even argue that all those OCLC numbers are effectively free advertising for a multinational company (who I work for, full disclosure)--I can't think of who else possibly benefits from having those numbers--along with those letters--prominently displayed in every book article on Wikipedia--it sure as hell is not the reader. ZarhanFastfire (talk) 17:14, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

I cannot answer all your points, but the ISBN if clicked brings one to the Book Sources page, scan down that page to World Cat, click again, and you will see the libraries holding that book in distance rings from where you set your location. I find that useful. Both the World Cat entry and knowing where there is a library with the book. World Cat gives the option to View all formats and languages, and also View all editions. Try it for Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie, one of her novels published after 1970, so it has ISBN. OCLC also shows libraries holding the book, and gives one the option to View all editions and formats. We try to put the first edition ISBN in the infobox. The times I have followed out to find where a book is, there were libraries holding it. Of course, I have not tried this for every article on a book with an ISBN in Wikipedia. ISBN is new, in use since 1970. Once on that ISBN page, other sources besides World Cat can be searched as well. My assumption is that OCLC is useful for the books published before ISBN came into being, again leading to a library near you, or one that might consider interlibrary loan, which is very practical in my mind. It also lets an editor who does not have the book in hand learn information about the book like number of pages, format, translator if there was one. --Prairieplant (talk) 14:18, 1 May 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for your reply. The last time I clicked on ISBNs here, years ago, all it led me to was a page about what ISBNs were. I take your general points about usefulness of finding a book near to them for some people. However, because most people who edit here are not cataloguers or other people working in library and information science, it still strikes me that much of the way the data is presented (as well as what data has been selected) leads to (or rather springs from) many false assumptions about books: for example, "number of pages". There is no single number of pages for a book that exists in multiple editions, just as there is no single ISBN; sometimes there are multiple ISBNs for the same book by the same publisher (as many as three, sometimes, for the same physical book). There can also be several OCLC records for the same physical book. Now, if people were to follow some sort of guideline saying, go to WorldCat and find the earliest edition you can find, and if published in more than one country at the same time, choose the one the author lives in, and figure out from all the records which one is the best representative of the first edition and use that information consistently across the template, we might be getting somewhere. But as you correctly point out there were no ISBNs before 1970 (though there were SBNs, and you can convert those to ISBNs by adding a zero to them). So they will want to put one in, and they seem to be just putting an ISBN from any random copy they have to hand.
Returning to the point about LC classification, in the example you gave, have you noticed that under LC class it has two distinct classifications? The PZ number given is an out of date classification for popular fiction which no-one has used in decades. The second classification is incomplete (it's Christie's English author class)--the title Cutter number is missing. All of these things taken together make the article box look incoherent. This makes Wikipedia look incompetent--which it is, actually, because, again, its editors are not cataloguers and don't how any of this works; the template is trying hard to do something it cannot possibly do: represent "the book" when there are hundreds of them. I am all for helping people find information but if that box is going to be useful, someone needs to figure out how to do so in a meaningful manner. And I suppose in future I will do my best to fix up such article info boxes myself to reflect what I'm suggesting. But I'd like to know if there are there guidelines about which OCLC, which ISBN, which Dewey, which LC, etc., to be used, written in such a way as to explain what they are and how to apply them coherently, for editors who are not library cataloguers? ZarhanFastfire (talk) 16:17, 1 May 2016 (UTC)
I do not see why one must be a cataloguer to find useful information about a book at World Cat or the other places listed and linked at Book Sources. The template itself says, use first edition at the ISBN, as you see if you read the guidance at Template:Infobox book. OCLC is to be used when there is no ISBN, and again first edition is preferred. The guide right now is to use the First Edition ISBN, and thus the first edition number of pages. Some articles on books add a publication history section, listing other editions with year published, publisher, ISBN, including foreign language editions (e.g. A Morbid Taste for Bones, first in the Cadfael series by Ellis Peters). For books written before 1970 and without an ISBN, no ISBN is entered. Sometimes the OCLC is entered for that easy link to World Cat. Articles on books by Dickens, Austen, Twain, for a sample, show no ISBN and no OCLC in the infobox book template, and publication history covers only the first edition, not later editions over the decades. Some include a "definitive" annotated edition in a section titled further reading, which will have an ISBN. Some articles of English language books include information on translations, usually found from World Cat, so that the publisher, translator, year and ISBN will be available for the article. I have not looked so much at books translated into English, beyond The Little Prince and The Stranger (novel), both translated from French; the first was published in the USA in French and English, the second was published by a French publisher in French and then later translated. The latter includes some discussion about the different translations to English, and the two different titles chosen in English for UK (The Outsider) and the USA (The Stranger). In the article on The Little Prince, in one section (not the template, but a section in the article) The Little Prince#Literary translations and printed editions, the translations into English are listed as first editions in each case, with the associated ISBN for those translations done 1970 or later. What seems chaotic to you seems orderly and helpful to me. There is also the satisfaction of knowing the book exists, listed in other databases, and that information is consistent in multiple sources. When I look for less famous novels, it is much harder work tracking down the needed information. The Book Source page has been improved over the years, I guess -- the introduction is less confusing than when I first encountered it, and did not realize I needed to scan down the page to find useful information on where to find the book. Another editor explained that to me (thank you Magioladitis). If I add an OCLC to a template, I use the one provided at the World Cat page for the ISBN I used. Most of the detail you explained about LC, P2, Cutter number, English author class (she is English, eh wot?) went over my head. Perhaps much of your objection is going over my head, as I am not a person who specializes in library catalogues, rather one who uses them to find books in all their versions. There are some other changes to ISBN being done and sometimes discussed, where later year ISBN are put into the template by some invisible manner to books published long before ISBN came into being. Wikipedia says it is a tertiary source, so these secondary sources are essential to a well-written article, no? --Prairieplant (talk) 10:01, 2 May 2016 (UTC)
I agree, you don't have to be a cataloguer to find at least some of that information useful, and I don't think I said that, just that the rather flat way the information is provided is potentially misleading. You do need to be a cataloguer to understand and fill in the lower parts of that template competently, though, I think, and you have to be aware of what is supposed to go where, and your response is the first one I've had that suggests there is in fact some kind of standard--so thanks for that. Probably it should all be consistent with the entry from a first edition. What I was objecting to (actually there were several discrete objections, excuse my grumpy letter to the editor tone), in part because I did not understand what was supposed to be in the template, was what I have actually been seeing, as in the example I cited, and now I know that's not what was supposed to be there and I am pleased to hear it. In other words, I've seen a lot of bad examples. The template would be more user-friendly if it said explicitly that it ought to be a first edition, etc. Maybe it is, I'm not used to dealing with them directly, I've never edited one, just grown increasingly frustrated at seeing random stuff dumped in them apparently for the sake of it. And yes, to confirm what you've heard, in recent years ISBNs have been retroactively assigned to pre-1970 books via their reprints (always assuming they genuinely are reprints)--but that's something publishers are doing, the "validity" of those ISBNs is a matter of some debate, but like it or not they're getting added to records for the original works, ideally provided the "new" book really is a reprint without corrections or additions. (There have always been publishers who misuse them: sharing a single ISBN across dozens and dozens of books, getting confused about what they're for, e.g., using them for a series instead of a book, using the same ISBN over the course of different editions). Thanks once more for replying and clearing things up a bit for me. ZarhanFastfire (talk) 04:44, 18 May 2016 (UTC)

Genre edit war[edit]

There are slow-moving edit wars at Hammer of the Gods (book) and Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored on whether the infoboxes should give the genre as "non-fiction", with both participants accusing each other of being blocked, vandals or whatnot. I have semi-protected both (of course at the Wrong Version) for now to stop those edit wars and would appreciate it if someone more familiar with how book infoboxes usually handle the genre could take a look. Huon (talk) 16:55, 14 June 2016 (UTC)

Proposed deletion of Fitz Balintine Pettersburg[edit]

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The article Fitz Balintine Pettersburg has been proposed for deletion because of the following concern:

Non notable subject as no RS to support notability can be found

While all constructive contributions to Wikipedia are appreciated, content or articles may be deleted for any of several reasons.

You may prevent the proposed deletion by removing the {{proposed deletion/dated}} notice, but please explain why in your edit summary or on the article's talk page.

Please consider improving the article to address the issues raised. Removing {{proposed deletion/dated}} will stop the proposed deletion process, but other deletion processes exist. In particular, the speedy deletion process can result in deletion without discussion, and articles for deletion allows discussion to reach consensus for deletion. K.e.coffman (talk) 04:49, 7 July 2016 (UTC)

Chaos Monkeys[edit]

Thanks to the community for creating an entry for my recently-released, bestselling book on Silicon Valley. One nit: the linked name actually goes to a Spanish cyclist that is definitely not me. To my knowledge, I don't have a Wikipedia page. Either that should be remedied, or the link removed. In case you opt for the former, there's a basic bio at Everipedia:

There's also a more long-form bio at my author site:

Antoniogm (talk) 03:18, 15 July 2016 (UTC)