The folks over at OCLC have opened the doors on the beta version of WorldCat Identities a few weeks back. It provides a new way to look at the publications by and about specific authors and other ‘content creators’ such as musicians, playrights and movie producers.
The main page starts you off with the top 100. This is not merely a list of the 100 most prolific authors, rather creators have been ranked based on the combination of their own publications and other works about the creator. For example, Shakespeare lists 40,460 total works. A timeline displays the number of publications per 5 year period stretching from 1550 through to the present day. The only gap in publications occurred from 1556-1561 (how is that for a great trivia question?). The most prolific period of publications was actually from 2000-2005 showing 11,897 publications. We then get to see lists of the most widely held works about and by Shakespeare (Tales from Shakespeare and The complete works of William Shakespeare), an audience level, a list of related names and a couple of useful links (including a link to the Authority File and to Shakespeare’s Wikipedia entry). But wait – there is more! In the right sidebar we get to see a list of alternate names for Shakespeare. For example, the list includes 4 different versions of Shakespear’s name in Hebrew. We also get to see the list of Languages into which the works have been translated along with the number of works published in that language. Runner-up to English’s top value of 96,923 is German clocking in at 5,538.
Beyond the top 100 – you can search for any author you like. I love that the focus isn’t so much on book sales or ‘best sellers’ – but rather on library holdings and the aggregate of all the information our cataloging of books has assembled. The timeline visualization does a great job of giving you the big picture of when works (and those about the creator) were produced.
On my wishlist would be the ability to view the list of publications ranked in order by translations. It is no surprise to me that The complete works of William Shakespeare is the most widely held with “2,503 editions published between 1623 and 2007 in 25 languages and held by 47,606 libraries worldwide” – but it was tantelizing to see that Hamlet has been translated into 67 languages while MacBeth has only been translated into 53. What about learning which works have been repeatedly published over the longest span of years? Or seeing timelines by subject so you could look for changes in the type of works being published?
Overall, this is a great example of the direction I hope the archives community will move in permitting users to explore aggregations of structured data. By ‘structured data’ I mean those nice predictable units of information such as dates, locations, subjects and language. As more and more archivists furiously generate EAD finding aids full of these nice tidbits, we will have more and more data to explore and display in new and interesting ways.