Tag Archives: library

In Praise of Google Books

Amongst Google‘s many cool products, one of my favorites is Google Books. The company has partnered with a number of major libraries (including UW-Madison) to scan a massive number of books. Some books are available in complete digital versions, some have limited previews, and others aren’t viewable online – depending on each book’s copyright status. Beyond this cooperation with libraries, Google has a partnership program by which publishers can make their books available. A pending agreement with publishers may soon allow Google to provide access to out-of-print but still in-copyright material, as well.

I’ve found Google Books to be a very useful resource in the course of my research for my various musicology classes. There’s a fully viewable (and downloadable!) copy of the Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire, a reference book printed in 1931 that I have used on multiple occasions. For a recent project dealing with gender and characterization of mythological characters in the operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Phillippe Rameau, I was able to access a Rameau biography, an old copy of Bullfinch’s Mythology, and a number of works by classical authors. It’s certainly much faster than interlibrary loan, and sometimes lets me be lazy and not venture up to the sixth or seventh floor of our library just to check something.

Of course, there are many more fun titles available, too. You can find Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass with the original John Tenniel illustrations. If you’re looking for short (and far from comprehensive) summaries of The Bard’s plays, you can read Shakespeare in Limerick Google has recently started adding magazines as well, such as Popular Science and Men’s Health.

As one might expect from Google, by far the best feature of Google Books is its full-text search. Many books – even titles that aren’t viewable online at all – are completely searchable. This has a number of applications. It can help you locate references that you might not find via simple title, subject, or author searches. You can also, as I mentioned above, spot check something before deciding if you need to acquire a physical copy. What prompted me to write this little pæan today is the ability to search a book you already have in front of you.

Earlier this afternoon, I picked up a book I’d requested via interlibrary loan. I turned first, as I usually do with research materials, to the back of the book to consult the index; there wasn’t one. Luckily, the book is available on Google Books, so I was able to search for the terms in which I was interested. The book’s limited preview didn’t allow me to see every page that contained my search terms. But, a wonderful feature of the search tool is that is still gives you page numbers for every result. Google Books can thus act as a digital index for a physical object. Pretty cool, huh?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments