Scans of Google Books with fingers in them


Avi Solomon says: "If you search Google Images for "Google  books fingers" you get poignant images (to my lights) of scanner worker bee hands. Makes me value the massive,  anonymous and underpaid effort that goes into maintaining the 'digital' economy." Here an example.

Google Books fingers


  1. If you have ever taken an animation class, you can appreciate how difficult it is to take hundreds of pictures while making sure you hands are out of the frame every time.

  2. I worked in the microfilm business for nearly twenty years, and you could always tell which shops used the foot-pedal plugs on their planetary microfilm cameras because of all the hands and fingers showing up in their frames. Use the shutter button on the side of the camera deck and you can only have the problem if your form is grossly poor. I left the business when the last bureau I worked for went all digital, and the new digital whiz-kids all decided that no one who’d worked with clunky old microfilm could possibly know anything about document handling and high-speed capture. Progress, I suppose, and one day anthropologists will probably study those fingers.

  3. I work at Emory University digitizing books, that makes me part of the “massive, anonymous and underpaid effort”. Here is an example of our work on Amazon: Google may have a larger operation, but they are lacking in quality to an almost shocking degree. Most of my time is spent checking and rechecking the books we scan to make sure all the pages are there, the type is legible and that there are NO FINGERS. What good is an e-book if you can’t read it? Makes me very proud of the work me and my team of 3 do every day. And Stewart, I know it’s not the same as animation, but I take thousands of pictures every day and I still manage to notice when my fingers get in there.

  4. Trust me, we are underpaid. Not to mention the fact that in my library, they just fired all of our desktop support, systems, and took away our cost of living raises for the foreseeable future. I’m very lucky to even have my job.

  5. I spent a few months working in a Google Books scanner shop through a temp placement service. I wouldn’t have called myself “underpaid” (it was over minimum wage, at least), but it was pretty intense work. There was a really hard push to get a massive page count every night with a minimum of errors. I was at about the six week mark before I started hitting page count requirements on a regular basis, working 8 hours, 5 days. I think I was scanning 12,000 pages a night when I left.

    Still, we got two 15 minute breaks, and one half hour lunch. Free Internet access from managed desktop machines, and free drinks and snacks from open fridges, in the Google style. It was a badge in, put on the headphones, plop down at your station, and turn off the brain kind of job. Could have done worse.

  6. It’s soul sucking work in the long term – as such *any* amount is too little after awhile.

    I’m surprised it’s taken this long for anyone to notice the fingers…I worked on this project a few years ago, and scans of fingers were just short of ubiquitous even back then.

  7. One would think with as much brainpower as Google claims to have in their compound, one of them would have thought to do a scan of each image for a big pink blob.

    If yes, flag for rescanning. If no, continue.

  8. I have to agree with Zaren. Better than minimum wage for mindless and full time work doesn’t sound all that bad. Especially, if you can produce shoddy work such as this.

  9. I think they should compile these pictures into a book, then scan it and offer it on google books.

  10. True, this is an underappreciated job, but even more interesting is the fact that every single day, we ALL contribute to Google’s ongoing book scanning project. Everyone who commented on this post, for example, helped out…perhaps without even knowing it!

    Whenever you submit a CAPTCHA–those random, funny-looking words you need to type in to prove you’re a human on a lot of sites–you’re solving a word problem that tripped up Google’s book-scanning computers. Sometimes the text is blurred or warped, and Google’s bots can’t “read” a word the same way a human can. So they partner with third parties to feed those words into a randomized CAPTCHA system and crowdsource the task for double-benefit, in a situation where everyone wins:

    Web sites can reliably tell human from spammer
    Google fills in the blanks where only a human will do

    Pretty awesome!

  11. Those are pink ‘finger condomns’ they wear to prevent oils from getting from your fingers to the books.

  12. So the book in the example pic, is that the Koran? Or something? It seems bible-y, or like rules to live by from a dozen or so centuries ago.

    1. no idea. but it is troubling, filling the google AI’s heads with “perpetual torments..please god..wicked word .. sordid lucre” is so going to bite us in the ass when they become self aware.

  13. Yeah, not too many of their vaunted PhDs doing that work. It just goes to show you, massive captital (financial or intellectual), massive numbers of drones. GM, Google, whatever.

    I’ve been a drone, it’s not so bad, but I’m glad it was temporary. I think it would eventually grind down your soul.

    Employers of drones have an obligation to provide opportunities to them, not just sodas. I don’t know if Google does or not. I doubt it. I’m talking about paid tuition, training for advanced positions, etc. Uncle Sam does it for their drones (GIs). You get all the free tuition you can eat, and you get the GI Bill when you leave.

Comments are closed.