Tuesday, August 29

More Free Books!

Free Books! The antipodes of the super-deluxe editions that we secretly lust after but profess to despise.

And now we can hope to have more of them! I am a long time fan of Project Gutenberg, even if I haven't been a big time user. Whether or not you are familiar with it, I'm sure my fellow Book-Loopers can imagine the limitations of such an open source-style effort to publish works of literature in the public domain (don't quote me, but that's how I've always understood the 'Project'--not that the problems derive from the Project as much as from the books that have found their way into the public domain, especially if you think your copy of Proust is obsolete, Ben).

But perhaps help is on the way from Ben's good friends out in the Pacific Northwest! I saw this report on my homepage in regards to something called Google Book Search. I'm too lazy to try it out just now, but I'm hoping that when I look for it, it won't be hard to find.

According to the AP report: "Google's Book Search service is the product of its Books Library Project, which is digitizing books from major libraries around the world in order to make them searchable online. Its partners include the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University, the University of California[,] the New York Public Library [and] a pilot project with the Library of Congress." (And look who leads the list! Lo and behold, it's the University of Michigan. I commend you, gentlemen, for having attended such a fine and forward-thinking institution of higher learning.)

Anyway, it's not much to go on, but I hope this means we can all look forward to a new era of free books on the internet. And in the meantime, Ben, if you're ever stranded on a desert island somewhere without your 1922 translation of Swann's Way, but with your laptop, a power source, and a strong enough wi-fi signal, you can still read your book, courtesy of Project Gutenberg--it will always have a place in my heart as my original source for free on-line literature.


LTS said...

This is it, I think: Google Book Search.

The basic search capability isn't new--I've definitely used it before to look for specific citations. I think what's new, though, is that some of the books can now be downloaded in PDF format in their entirety. That might be very nice indeed. Anyway, it's fun to play with at this point, but we'll see how useful it is in practice.

Brooks Smith said...

It would be useful if they did scholastic journals. Since I went to schools in another state, I have to sneek into the University of Washington library just to reseach urban planning journals. It's just a pain-in-the-ass; why can't I just read them for free (or a small fee) at home?

Books for free? Man, are you crazy?!?

Ben said...

Yeah, this is a massive project. I know that Google is setting up an office in Ann Arbor and bringing lots of jobs to the region so that they'll be able to work closely with the UM libraries. A few years ago when the project was first being discussed it was usually stated that Google would be offering the entire contents of these libraries' collections online. That seemed odd, and, predictably, copyright issues seem to have stalled that.

PDFs are nice. The searchability is intriguing and I'm sure Google will have plenty of tricks up their sleeve once this really gets started. I'm excited.

Ben said...

I'm searching away. This is pretty great already!

Reading some literary critcism. Very easy to locate specific stuff.