2009/01/01

Goog-Goog-Googly Eyes

Yes, Google's had custody of my eyeballs a lot lately. Between Blogger, Picasa and Google Books, I've spent most of my online time in Google World the last couple of days.

Google Books is an astonishing offering for readers who like old literature. I spent about an hour and a half tonight scarfing down PDF's of copyright-expired books scanned from the Harvard and other libraries. Fantasy and supernatural fiction by Lord Dunsany and Arthur Machen, John MacGregor's Rob Roy sailing canoe travelogues, The Collected Poems of Maurice Baring, all mine, ha-ha-ha!

You can do an advanced search limited to "full view only" and retrieve countless treasures for free download, not transcribed as text-files like the Gutenberg Project, but gorgeous scans of original editions. Bless the Gutenberg Project, I 've used them heavily in years past. But with broadband cable and a 300 gigabyte hard drive, 70 megabytes of PDF's is nothing now.

I am old enough to remember how hard it used to be to find out-of-print books. Back in the '70's, I regularly drove from Windermere, in Orange County, over to Haslam's Books in St. Petersburg, to poke around in their huge used-book section. I used to spend hours on the top floors of the Strozier Library at FSU, where they stored the old, Dewey-cataloged books.

When you put Google Books together with used-book middlemen like AbeBooks and Alibris, and OCLC WorldCat for interlibrary loan, as well as the numerous digital archives assembled by government agencies and universities, such as the Library of Southern Literature at UNC, access to books is now far beyond anything we could have imagined thirty years ago. I am in "hog-heaven"!

It occurs to me that I can now do a Local Color display, (e.g. Sarah Orne Jewett), something that has been impossible because the library owned so few titles from that school of American literature. I could show laminated color print-outs of covers from the PDF's, and point readers to Google Books, the Gutenberg Project, and elsewhere.

4 comments:

Online Book Stores said...

Nice Blogs and Happy New Year...

Online Book Store

Brett said...

Thanks, OBS, and Happy New Year to you in New Zealand! Curious to know how you found me.

Steerforth said...

Between AbeBooks and Amazon's Marketplace I 'm able to find almost anything I want.

People are forever predicting the demise of the book as we know it, but I think we're living in a golden age.

Brett said...

Agreed. An Information Studies professor of mine, Bill Summers, used to say, in rebuttal to such predictions, that, "The appearance of a new medium increases the use of all other media".

Whether this is strictly so, I don't know. Is there more telegraphy now than there used to be? I can find plenty of it on my shortwave.