Is Google Books Leading Researchers Astray? – Slate Magazine

Ultimately, Underwood suggests, Google Books may help us come to such conclusions, but it won’t do so on its own. “It’s not just that Google Books can’t support claims about cultural evolution,” he said. “It’s not that it’s a bad corpus for that; it’s that you’d need more than one corpus for that.” If it’s going to be truly helpful, we’ll need to juxtapose it with other, more thoughtfully assembled collections. For now, it may have limited uses. As Underwood pointed out, for example, we can still use it as a rough tool that allows us to ask, “When did this word or phrase start appearing in the print record?”