Create a crowd-sourced database of all field guides filtered by location, taxa and other categories

A crowd-sourced global database of most field guides (printed, web and app-based) that can be filtered by location, taxa and other categories doesn’t exist. iNaturalist would be a good choice for such a database because of its main function is crowd-sourcing identifications on all taxa.

Here is a list of sources for field guides:

Wikipedia ( great for background information on various taxa but poor on the fraction of field guides covered and is not filterable by location. Difficult to edit.

Book sellers (Amazon, Chapters, NHBS, etc): popular field guides included, with image covers and often previews. Obscure local field guides, out-of-print, and primary literature excluded. Not filterable by location, except for NHBS.

International Field Guides ([collection_facet][]=fldg): A large database, over 6500 included, but database search is not that friendly. Has a very good database of field guides for insects. Site is limited to USA and Canada. However it is filterable by taxonomy. Here is an example: But you can’t filter to location, aside from the fact it is for USA and Canada. What is interesting about bugguide is the large amount of primary literature covered in its database. This extensive bibliography is part of the reason why bugguide has a higher accuracy rate for identifications.

The Ontario Field Naturalist’s Toolchest: This is my personal website of field guides. It is very comprehensive but still incomplete. My coverage of apps sucks because I don’t own a tablet or cell phone. My website is geared for Ontario and is divided into various taxa. It includes images of book covers, previews of books when I could find them, links to really old field guides on archived websites such as when I can find them. I include local field guides that usually get overlooked like: Bats of Ontario (from the Matt Holder Environmental Research Fund). A useful field guide like this is easily overlooked by it is not listed on Amazon or found in a conventional book store. I also attempt to identify which field guides are the most useful, although sometimes I don’t get it right. This website is a pain to update so it often goes awhile not updated.

Implementation: To make it easier to implement for the programmers I recommend reusing user interface elements already implemented. For example, uploads of field guides could have a similar interface as uploading photos and browsing field guides could be accomplished something like the “Explore” feature with a few modifications.

Other filters to consider: Percentage of species coverage (all, most, common only), Life Stage (adults, immatures, fruits, signs etc), friendliness (layman, amateur naturalist, professional scientist), portability (foldout, compact field guide, desk reference), coverage (checklist only, identification guide, full life histories), usefulness (must have, useful secondary reference, limited usefulness)

Pros: Better identification from the community, more money in the pockets of field guide authors.
Cons: Great potential for SPAM, copyright violations, piss off with the duplication of their bibliography, no easy way to indicate what species of a taxonomic group are covered or not by a particular book (e.g. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide)

This topic was originally intended for Feature Request, but I am moving it here because it represents a major functionality (composed of a lot of individual features combined) that might take years to implement if ever (so many other feature requests to take care of first) and likely should have a period of brainstorming.


Could Goodreads be used for this?

This could be fun! And useful! And it would take a lot of time (I say, looking around the filled bookcases in my office).


Can you clarify a bit more, or maybe I’m just not understanding properly.

Are you proposing:

  • INat serve as a database of field guide titles (or links for online ones)
  • iNat serve as a database indicating what species can be found in which guides
  • iNat replicate or store the information, such as keys, field marks etc that are found in field guides.

I’m not sure the 1st 2 would be copyright issues

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I like it. I’m not a “computer person” but it seems it wouldn’t be that difficult to set up, and then the labor of building the list would fall to us, the many iNat observers - and who could do a better job? I for one have hundreds of field guides and more technical ID literature. Of course, I may well be naive about what is involved…

iNat would do #1 and #2 but not #3. All information would be external with the exception of links to existing Field Guides and other material on iNat itself.

Users posting an image of a book cover may be a copyright violation, but if it is nobody except an author or publisher with a grudge from a poor review would care as that image does in a small way promote the book.

Spam is possible if authors or publishers attempt to subvert the ratings or write a rather commercialized review.

I had a look at Goodreads. It doesn’t look suitable. It has a category “Field Guides” but it is a long list. You could search for say dragonflies, but only a small percentage of the results would be actual field guides. If a user could create a category or list such as Plant-Grasses-New England it could be workable, but there would be hundreds of these categories that would have to be made. These categories or lists would be difficult for end users to find.

I think this article contains a good explanation on content syndication, good practices of content syndication and the issue of copyrights.

Syndication is normally discussed in terms of marketing and bloggin. The article takes a wider approach and also mentions an interesting argument related to syndicating content for a wider public interest:
"If your objective is to educate, or bring general awareness to your brand or cause, traffic isn’t always the only goal. Dharmesh Shah, one of the founders of HubSpot, hits the nail on the head when he said on, “My motivation is for the content I’ve created….to reach and help as many as possible, so it doesn’t matter that much to me where people read it.”