Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Web of Australia LiteratureAustralia literature trapped in the web

Cover of Gilgamesh: A Novel By Joan LondonOn my travels through Greece recently, I met Australian Joan London. As I had just came from Turkey, she mentioned she had written a book touching on Armenia. It was not until then, I realized this was the Australian author of Gilgamesh (2001), which the UK The Guardian gave a very favorable review of.

In the first posting of his new, and very insightful, Canberra Times Blog, Colin Steele discusses the positive and negative effects of the web on authors. One aspect Colin did not mention is the effect on how books are sold. Australian authors suffer from being in a small sub-category of literature. This can make their books hard to find online.

In my work as an ICT consultant I advise companies about how to make their products and services visible on the web. Perhaps I should be offering this service to authors as well. In looking for Joan's books, I noticed a few problems:
  1. Author's name: "Joan London" is not sufficiently unique. While a search will find her books, it will also find references to people named "Joan" in the city of London.
  2. Book names: There are a lot of books with Gilgamesh in the title. As an example looking for "London Gilgamesh" finds a restaurant in London, as well as the book. Looking for her latest, The Good Parents, in Amazon, will big up a lot of self help books for parents if you use just "good parents" for the search.
  3. Publishing location: A book published in Australia is not listed, or not listed as quickly, in online catalogs, as ones from the US and UK.
None of this would be a problem for a trained librarian, like Colin, or for someone who knew exactly what they were looking for. But for the average person doing a web search for a book, or author, they heard mentioned, it can be the difference between finding, or not finding the book and therefore resulting in a sale or no sale.

Enlightened publishers can also make the web search process easier. As an example, Grove Press, have permitted the full text of Gilgamesh to be searched, via Amazon.com. This allows customers to find the book in a search and for me to be able to find there are 36 pages with references to Armenia and see exactly what they were. This facility is most useful for non-fiction, but can also allow a potential reader to find a book they may be interested in.

See also: Australian Authors, Joan London.

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