Why pay for archived books on CD? Part Two

30 06 2008

In my first post I shared my frustration with people making a buck off of unsuspecting family historians by charging for CD versions of books in the public domain.  I used the three-volume set History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men by Duane Hamilton Hurd as an example of one such book being sold for almost thirty dollars!  I would like to continue the discussion on how one can find this, and many other books of potential genealogical importance, for free online.

Today I will be discussing the joys of Google Book Search.

Google Book Search offers several different viewing categories: Full View, Limited View, Snippet View, and No Preview Available.  We’re going to want to access only the books that are available as full view.  According to the Google Books site, “You can see books in Full View if the book is out of copyright, or if the publisher or author has asked to make the book fully viewable. The Full View allows you to view any page from the book, and if the book is in the public domain, you can download, save and print a PDF version to read at your own pace.”

There are two steps to doing this search.  First, go to the Google Book Search page and type in the first handful of words in the title of the book.  I typed “History of Middlesex County Massachusetts” (without the quotes) and hit enter.  I was given 1,618 results.  You can stop here and start browsing for the book or you can eliminate the books that won’t allow complete cover-to-cover access by selecting “Full view only” in the drop down menu near the top of the page.  In this case, the second book listed is what we were looking for.  Clicking on the title of the book brings us to the book itself.  On the right had column you will find several options, the most important being:

  • Download the book as a PDF to save for offline use
  • View the book as plain text (in case the original printing is tough to read)
  • Search – this is the best of the options. You can search for any word or phrase that may appear in the book and it will give you links to the specific page where the word or phrase is found.
  • Other editions – In the case that there are multiple volumes of a particular book, this is where you’d find links to them.  This can be hit or miss as it will link to books that may or may not be available to view online through Google Books.

Unfortunately, it appears that you can only read Volume One of History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men via Google Book Search.  Following the links to the other editions comes up with volumes unaccessable for online viewing.  Fortunately, we have another option to find the rest of the volumes – the Internet Archive Text Search.  I will conclude this series on finding public domain books online for free with basic tips on how to use Internet Archive Text Search in the next few days.

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