Friday, January 22, 2010

Google Books

I'm translating a German essay for an art catalogue, and I just came across a German translation of a passage from Lyotard. The essay provides excellent bibliographical information about the German publication the quotation was taken from, so I was able to do some searching and find the English title of the essay. And then Google gave me the first page of the essay from its publication in an English selection of Lyotard's works, and the quotation turned out to be from the first paragraph of the essay, so I could just type up the passage in question.

There are many good reasons to be suspicious of Google's project of scanning in entire libraries, but this experience shows that there is one excellent reason for doing such a project: research! I did all of the above from my desk here at home, at the computer. A German-English translator working in Basel on such an art-catalogue translation in 1990 either had to translate the translated text, find the original and translate it (if he or she could), or do all kinds of extra work to get the translated version from the UK or the US.

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