Google Books is a Google service that makes discovering book content easier for us on the web. It started way back in 2004 and since then its mission has been to digitally scan and archive tons of book.
Knowing the breakneck pace that Google sets, one day it could become the absolute knowledge tank as far as books go. The ongoing Partner Program and the Library Project are helping to rocket things along.
But Google Books does not allow you to download whole books unless it’s in the Public Domain. It also does not display the entire text of other books. What’s the point of using google books, you might say?
Plenty, if you can “˜exploit’ the information that’s freely available. Just think, there are more than a million books in the Public Domain alone. If you have a yen for information and a zest for lifelong learning, here are ten ideas for using Google Books.
Build Your Own Personal Library for Lifelong Learning
Building your own reference library (My Library) with Google Books is a good way to start off. Google Books allows you to read an entire book that’s out of copyright in Full View. Then for some books you can flip a few selected pages to have a Limited Preview. Even with Snippet View and books tagged with No Preview Available, you can get some idea what the book is all about.
Looking at the contents of an index for a particular book, gives me some ideas for further reading. Use the index like a keyword list and you can dive into the web for more information.
Also, think of your bookshelf on Google Books as a reading list for lifelong learning. To own a book you can take the help of the links provided alongside the book excerpt. From casual reading to serious research, the snippets of information are like untapped wealth.
You can do the reverse bit of adding the books on your physical bookshelf to the My Library in Google Books. Here’s how someone did it with a simple barcode scanner.
Your Very Own Magazine Stand
Of late, Google Books has started cataloging magazine too. Personally, I find Google Books a great place to look for magazines I wouldn’t have got at my corner store (Imagine going back to 1926 and reading Popular Science). Unlike books, each magazine in Google Books is fully viewable. Here’s how to read complete magazines online in Google Books.
Try the Advanced Book Search
Try out the Advanced Book Search when you are building your personal bookshelf on Google Books. You can search by language, or search more specifically, by ISBN/ISSN number, search between dates, etc. The date range search is useful when searching for magazines and periodicals.
A great use of the Advanced Book Search crops up when you go out to search for a book without knowing the title or author.
Reminder: You can now search for books directly from the Search Options panel on the new Google search page.
Share Your Library with Others
You can mark your bookshelves as Public and share it with others. The library’s URL can be sent to friends or posted on blogs. You can also refer to a single book (or any of its parts) by linking to it. You can even export your bookshelf as an XML file and share the exported file.
Exporting as XML is useful when you want to import the information into any desktop book manager or digital catalog.
Search for Specific Text within Your Own Collection
Once you have your personal bookshelf filled with choice material, it is easy to reference information as you can search within your own collection. Searching within a book is user friendly with the little hints that appear in the margin to indicate where you results are located. You can jump straight to that part with a click.
You can put a piece of text within quotes and do a quick plagiarism check in Google Search. The search feature of Google Books is a Google Search child and can be similarly used to find copied text taken from published works.
Get the Meanings of Words in Context
How exactly do I use a word like “˜Morton’s fork’ in a sentence and be in sync with the context? Perform a Google Book search with the word as a keyword and get to the book texts where the word has been used.
Online dictionaries can also do the job, but this is just to show that Google Books has little uses like these too.
Search for Other Editions or Related Books
There have been instances when I have found a useful bit of information in an edition different to the one I was searching on. Going over to Related Books also helps to understand the different angles to a specific topic.
Download Google Books for Offline Reading
Books in the Public Domain can be downloaded to your desktop as PDF or EPUB files. A third party app called Google Book Downloader for Windows can download full view/limited view books, and magazines too.
Though it is no longer under active development, you can download Google Book Downloader from here. Downloading via this app does take some patience.
Mac users have their own Google Book Downloader for the Mac also available for download.
Using these two apps, you can work around the limitation of offline reading for some books and magazines.
Quench Your Hunger for Strange Knowledge
Let me cite the testimonial of Diane Gilleland as mentioned on Google Books’ User Stories. She stumbled on a forgotten knitting technique. For me, it could be something as mysterious as UFOs. A Google Books search gives me a lot of limited previews and snippet views. I can take it up from there. Just start doing a wild search, I am sure you will stumble on books (and topics) you never knew existed.
As the user stories show, the ten ways are just the few uses that we can put Google Books too. I am sure you have your own ideas for using Google Books too. There are some features that I haven’t covered. Definitely, Google Books deserve another post. For now, let us know how useful do you find this exhaustive Google service.