Re: public/catalog [was: Re: ERB Decisions of March 26th]

Terry Allen writes:

> There should be *no default
> assumed* by publishers.  That's hard to swallow, and most of 
> this group is choking on it; ask yourselves whether you need
> a specified default mechanism to find a copy of Moby Dick;
> ask yourselves whether, had Melville's publisher specified a
> default mechanism (e.g., writing to the publisher's address),
> you should have to follow it today.

Sam Hunting writes:

> When I ask myself the question, this is the answer:
> In the example cited ("Moby Dick"), there is a well-proven system in
> place, and both publishers and readers/buyers do indeed "follow it
> today." It has two essential components: they are called the "title
> page" and the "bibliography". 

> The edition of Moby Dick contains a "title page", which contains both an
> ISBN number (a unique identifier for the edition) and the bibliographical
> information neecssary to uniquely identify the work -- title, author,
> publisher, editor, date of publication, place of publication, etc. The
> title page is used by authors/editors to construct a bibliography, a
> mechanism users can employ to find "Moby Dick" at the library, the
> bookstore, or the online bookseller. 

Terry Allen writes:

> The original edition had no ISBN.  

Sam Hunting responds:

I agree. Technology advances. When there was no ISBN, the "specified
default mechanism" of title page and bibliography sufficed to locate the

> But yes, given a reference to Moby
> Dick you can find it *by any means you find useful*. 

I agree. One can look for "that book with the whale on the cover" if one
likes. That has nothing to do with whether or not there is a *default*

> If you go to
> your local bookseller and ask for a copy, he is not required by
> antient custom to write a letter to the address of the original
> publisher as it was at the time of publication, or even to have
> on hand the quill pen, penny stamp, and original address he would
> have used to order a copy when the book was first published. 

No indeed -- the publisher who made a "hard coded" street address the
default mechanism for users to find the titles on his list wouldn't stay
in business long! Fortunately, the title page provides the means for
*others* (authors, copyeditors, bibliographers, librarians) to enable
users find the publisher's titles.

> But mandating support for catalogues (rather than 
> recommending support for them as sets of URN hints) doesn't ensure 
> that PIs can be resolved indefinately.  NOTHING CAN DO THAT.

The title page/bibliography default mechanism for finding books is not
mandated for users. It is not mandated for publishers either -- except in
that they have found it makes good business sense. 

(Note please that I don't have a hidden technical agenda here of being
pro- or anti-catalog or PI or whatever: I just don't advocate misreading
history as a technique for making sound engineering decisions in
the present day.)

As far as "NOTHING CAN DO THAT" -- in principle, this is correct; when the
universe dies the heat death, PIs won't work. 

However, the title-page/bibliography default mechanism has been working
for some centuries -- the publishing industry, and certainly scholarship,
wouldn't work without it.  FROM A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE, it's been a
terrific success. So, from an engineering perspective, wouldn't it make
sense to ask what's right about it, and do that? 

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    > Don't make a special case for PIs in the Internet world.  

    The only thing I know about PIs is that they're deprecated ih SGML ;-)


>   "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way."  - 3 Nephi 14:14

"Remove not the ancient landmark." - Proverbs 22:28

Bon soiree!