Thursday, December 07, 2006

Google's and Microsoft's book search services

Setting aside the concern of information monopolies, Google Book Search and Microsoft's Live Search Books have been really helpful for me. For example, last night a student needed help with the microfiche machine: she was trying to read John Rankin's Letters on American Slavery, a title included in the well known Library of American Civilization microfiche series. The problem is, the work is over 100 pages long and we charge ten cents per photocopied page. Who wants to read a lengthy book like that at a microfiche machine? I knew the book was written well over a century ago (1833) and probably owned by a research library, so I searched Google Book Search to see if it had been digitized and is available online. Sure enough, it is. (I'm not linking to it because I haven't figured out Google Book Search's permalink structure yet.) Needless to say, the student was overjoyed.

I also used Google Book Search recently for a personal project. I was reading James Beard's book American Cookery. The book contains a bibliography of old American cookbooks he had consulted. I found many of them online. Old cookbooks are fascinating, sexist reading. They include the following:

Beecher, Catharine. Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book. New York 1846. 293 pp. The 1850 edition is online.

Chase, A. W. Dr. Chase's Recipes. Ann Arbor 1866. 384 pp.
The 1860 edition is online.

Cornelius, Mrs. Mary. The Young Housekeeper's Friend. Boston 1846. 190 pp.
The 1868 edition is online.

Harland, Marion. Common Sense in the Household. New York 1881. 546 pp.
The 1874 edition is online.

Peterson, Hannah Mary Bouvier. The National Cook Book. By a Lady of Philadelphia, a Practical Housewife. Philadelphia 1856. 301 pp.
The 1866 edition is online.

Webster, Mrs. A. L. The Improved Housewife. Hartford, Connecticut 1852. 236 pp.
The 1851 edition is online.


Anonymous said...

If you figure out google books' permalink structure, please share. It would be handy to be able to use.


Barbara said...

This is a nifty example of what's right with these projects - you can get the full text of historically interesting books. You can also check the wording of a quote or find newer books that mention some unusual phrase or a name.

What you can't do is read enough of the in-copyright books to do much with them. Amazon's Search Inside lets you read whole pages (I'm shocked, shocked!!)

Earlier this week I was showing a class how Google Book Search worked and found a snippet that mentioned the book I was actually looking for (which has not been scanned, though it's fully searchable in Amazon). The irony was that the snippet came from a public-domain government document that's freely available for scanning - and is already free on the web.

I think it's fascinating that even though the Iraq Study Group report is free online, it's also a popular item in bookstores, with a nicely-coordinated "lay down" - meaning it was sitting in boxes in bookstores around the country waiting for the day of release so it would go on sale the day the report went public.