Yesterday Google rocked the eBook world by announcing its entry into the market. Their approach is to host everything in the cloud, and all access would be remote. The upside would be that your books are available on any device. The downside would be that you would have to be constantly connected to read them. There’s supposed to be a download option, but I haven’t read up enough on it. In fact, I’m not going to talk about the new service at all (apart from that brief introductory statement.) I’ll let the rest of the blogosphere do that, and perhaps follow up later. Instead, today I’d like to focus on what Google’s been doing all along with it’s Google Books service.
For whatever reason, I really hadn’t paid much attention to everything that was available in Google Books. It was something I knew about and had used on rare occasion. Lately I’ve been exploring it in depth, and I’m really impressed by all the tools available for research and reading. I’ve hinted at this in the last couple of posts, but this time I’ll take one book and put it through its paces.
The first thing I discovered was the ability to create virtual bookshelves. If you have a Google account you can store and organize any book in the system, adding notes for future reference. As seen below, I’ve created several bookshelves for genealogy, history, and hymnals. I can change or add to these shelves as necessary. Unlike real bookshelves, a book can be place on more than one shelf.
The bookshelves in the top two sections are Google defaults and can’t be removed. The ones below the “Create new bookshelf” button are editable.
The book I’ve selected for this tour is “Life Sketches and Sermons” by N. J. Holmes. This is the book that I stumbled upon in the Greenville Library that has both of my paternal grandparents’ names listed. It’s a good candidate for this tour because it has most of the features of Google books.
Depending on copyright restrictions, books may have limited preview, no preview, or the entire book may be available. In this case, Life Sketches is now in the public domain, so the entire book is available online. This is also the case for most classic literature. If you wish to see only those books that do have a full view, you can do an advanced search and select only those books with a full view, in addition to any key words or other search criteria you wish to add. In the image below I’ve added my grandfather’s name in the search terms, and have selected full view. This should take me to the book I want.
Once I found the book I added it to my library. I was able to place it on both my “Genealogy” and “Local History” bookshelves.
Since “Life Sketches” is available in full view, it has lots more information available about it. The overview shows the book broken down into chapters (with hyperlinks), as well as any additional editions that might be available.
In this case, there is also a tag cloud of common words and phrases in the book. At a glance one can get a good idea about what this book covers. In this case, the phrases “Laurens County”, “Paris Mountain” and “Holy Spirit” are in larger fonts, so they occur more frequently in the book.
One of the coolest things Google Books does is to extract the place names in the book and provide placemarks for these on Google Maps. The placemark contains a brief excerpt where the place name occurs, along with the page number in the book. You can also download a KML file to view the locations in Google Earth. This isn’t available for all books. In fact, I think this is the only one on my virtual bookshelf that has this.
At the bottom of the page is bibliographic information for citation purposes.
If there is a full view available you can download a PDF file of the book. However, should you need a print copy of the book there are several options via links from the overview page. If available, you can order a copy from sites such as Amazon.com or Alibris.com, which is a website specializing in older or out-of-print books. There is also a link to show what’s available in libraries from the Worldcat website. You can enter your zip code to narrow the search to local libraries.
One of the coolest options, though, is the ability to print from Qoop.com. As mentioned in my last post, I was able to get a copy of a book published in 1833 and no longer available through this method. even though it’s “print-as-needed”, the price is quite reasonable.
I have on my “Hymnals and Sacred Songs” bookshelf the Olney Hymns by William Cowper and John Newton (who wrote Amazing Grace) which was published in 1779. I saw just this past week where the three-volume set was selling for over $300. You can order one from Qoop for under $30. Of course, it won’t be the original, but the content is still there.
And finally, if these options weren’t enough, you can clip portions of the book as either text or images, or you can just embed the book into your website. This is done using the <iframe> method. Here is the entire “Life Sketches” book embedded below:
So, there are tons of options and tools for research, and there are lots of primary and secondary sources available. These are most available for older resources that are out of print, but Google Books can also help find materials that still in print. I’m rapidly filling up my bookshelf with reference materials.