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title: Clusters parent: Data Model

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Book Clusters

For recommendation and analysis, we often want to look at works instead of individual books or editions of those books. The same material by the same author(s) may be reprinted in many different editions, with different ISBNs, and sometimes separate ratings from the same user.

There are a variety of ways to deal with this. GoodReads and OpenLibrary both have the concept of a ‘work’ to group together related editions (the Library of Congress also has such a concept internally in its BIBFRAME schema, but that data is not currently available for integration).

Other services, such as ThingISBN and OCLC's xISBN both link together ISBNs: given a query ISBN, they will return a list of ISBNs believed to be for the same book.

Using the book data sources here, we have implemented comparable functionality in a manner that anyone can reproduce from public data. We call the resulting equivalence sets ‘book clusters’.

Clustering Algorithm

Our clustering algorithm begins by forming an undirected graph of record identifiers. We extract records from the following:

  • Library of Congress book records, with edges from records to ISBNs recorded for that record.
  • OpenLibrary editions, with edges from editions to ISBNs recorded for that edition.
  • OpenLibrary works, with edges from works to editions.
  • GoodReads books, with edges from books to ISBNs recorded for that book.
  • GoodReads works, with edges from works to books.

We then compute the connected components on this graph, and treat each connected component as a single ‘book’ (what we call a book cluster).

The idea is that if two ISBNs appear together on a book record, that is evidence they are for the same book; likewise, if two book records have the same ISBN, it is evidence they record the same book. Pooling this evidence across all data sources maximizes the ability to detect book clusters.

The isbn_cluster table maps each ISBN to its associated cluster. Individual data sources may also have an isbn_cluster table (e.g. gr.isbn_cluster); that is the result of clustering ISBNs using only the book records from that data source. However, all clustered results such as rating tables are based on the all-source book clusters.

Known Problems

There are a few known problems with the ISBN clustering:

  • Publishers occasionally reuse ISBNs. They aren't supposed to do this, but they do. This results in unrelated books having the same ISBN. This will cause a problem for any ISBN-based linking between books and ratings, not just the book clustering. We don't yet have a good way to identify these ISBNs.

  • Some book sets have ISBNs, which cause them link together books that should not be clustered. The Library of Congress identifies many of these ISBNs as set ISBNs, and we are examining the prospect of using this to exclude them from informing clustering decisions.

If you only need e.g. the GoodReads data, we recommend that you not cluster it for the purpose of ratings, and only use clusters to link to out-of-GR book or author data. We are open to adding additional tables that facilitate linking GoodReads works directly to other tables.


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