Why pay for archived books on CD? Part Three

2 07 2008

This will wrap up my series on the basics of finding books available in the public domain for free online.  In my last post, I briefly discussed how Google Books can be used to alleviate the pains associated with paying for a book on CD.  But searching for these public domain books takes more than one site to solve the problem.  That’s why this post will discuss the left jab in the one-two punch of book searching; the Internet Archive Text Search.

According to the main page of the Internet Archive, their mission is simple: 

“The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.”

This website is a fabulous resource for information of all types – I would highly suggest you take a look around all the different portions of the site.  For today, we’re sticking with the texts section.  The text section is a collection of nearly 450,000 items from a plethora of North American libraries and beyond.  I think it’s in your best interest to browse the individual collections as you have time simply because there are so many resources throughout that you might find something of use that you otherwise would never have thought of!  For today, we’re sticking with our search for History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men by Duane Hamilton Hurd. 

As with the Google Books Search, all you need to do is type in the first few words of the title in the search box at the top of the text archive page.  I searched for “History of Middlesex County Massachusetts”, again without the quotes.  Shazam!  The fourth, fifth, and sixth results of that search come up with our desired set of books, each volume ready for viewing!  Clicking on the title brings you to your viewing options.

The Internet Archive offers a wider array of options for viewing the books they have available.  They can be found on the left hand side of the page once you’ve selected a book.  The options are:

  • DjVu – a high-quality, high-compressed files, suitable for web viewing
  • PDF – a standard Adobe PDF format
  • B/W PDF – similar to above, although all color has been eliminated, making for faster download
  • TXT – Simple text format.  This is the text pulled from the book when it was scanned using Optical Character Recognition.  This format is often tough to follow
  • Full Text – Similar to TXT
  • Flip Book – Another file for web viewing.  Searching books in this format is kind of a joke, but if you’re just wanting a quick and dirty preview before you download a PDF version, this is the way to go.

I think just about every book I have downloaded from these sites already has the Optical Character Recognition layer embedded into the PDF.  This makes searching through a five hundred plus page book a peice of cake. 

I have had considerable success using these two sites and can only imagine that they will continue to be a means of accessing otherwise out of print, old, and scarce books – especially those in the public domain. 




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