Friday, September 01, 2006

Google Books Revolution Rolls On

I've been meaning to mention the great news that Google Books has made available hundreds of classic public domain books for downloading (e.g. see The Guardian, Stoa, rogueclassicism and BBC News):

Download the classics
Starting today, you can go to Google Book Search and download full copies of out-of-copyright books to read at your own pace. You're free to choose from a diverse collection of public domain titles -- from well-known classics to obscure gems . . . .
Now, allow me to share with you one of the glories of this new development. One of the things that I love about old books is the look of them, their character, the fonts, the quaintness, the sketchy referencing, but best of all the hand annotations made by users. I never write in books, but many people do, even in library copies, and one of the nice things about some of these new downloadable Google books is that they retain the character of the individual book that was scanned. Take Aesop's Fables, for example. The edition is "chosen and phrased by Horace E. Scudder" and just above the "E.", the librarian (I assume) has pencilled in "Elisha", a librarian who has long since departed this world since the book dates from 1885.

As well as retaining the character of the original books scanned, these new downloadable texts have several advantages not yet mentioned anywhere I have seen: (1) the Table of Contents is usually hyperlinked, making it very easy to navigate your way around the book; (2) Likewise the Index (these examples also from Aesop's Fables).

I've been looking around to see what's available in our area, and there are riches to be found. I'll mention those I've found and am finding in the days to come (and I look forward to hearing from others what they have found too). Here's a particular treat:

Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt (eds.), LOGIA IHSOU: Sayings of Our Lord from An Early Greek Papyrus
(London: Henry Frowde, 1897).

As with Aesop's Fables above, the librarian (at Harvard) has written in "Pyne" above the "P." and "Surridge" above the "S.". The only bad news here is that the plate is not available. (Wonder why?).

More anon.


Wayne Leman said...

Mark, it is, indeed, a great thing that Google Books is doing. I look forward to all the other literary wealth they hope to give us, including scans of complete university libraries. I'm willing to pay to access some of these books. Google Books has the potential of revolutionizing reading and research on a scale comparable to the invention of the Gutenberg Press, IMO. Thanks for posting on this.

Anonymous said...

Forgive my ignorance, why is the "plate" missing?

Mark Goodacre said...

Not sure, but it's a darn shame! I wonder whether the copyright situation is different for the plate than for the rest of the book?