Searching the Full Text of Books

By Goldsborough, Reid | Information Today, January 2006 | Go to article overview

Searching the Full Text of Books


Goldsborough, Reid, Information Today


To do research over the Internet, books remain one of the last great frontiers that are still largely unexplored.

Suppose you're looking for background information to help with a business presentation. For some time now, you've been able to search the Web for government data; information published by companies, nonprofits, and hobbyists; and newspaper and magazine articles. To do this, you can use free Web search tools such as Google and Yahoo! or professional services such as Dialog (http://www.dialog.com) and LexisNexis (http://www.lexisnexis.com).

But, with some exceptions, you can't search through the huge repository of knowledge found in books. You need to go to a library for that. However, this will change.

Beginning the Epic Battle

The two largest and most prominent Internet search companies have recently locked horns in what will likely be an epic battle to bring us the same productivity and convenience benefits with books that we derive from using the Web to search through other media.

Google, with Google Book Search (formerly Google Print; http://books .google.com), and Yahoo!, with the Open Content Alliance (OCA; http:// www.opencontentalliance.org), are taking previous book archiving efforts to a new level.

The first widely accessible effort to put the full text of a large number of books online was Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg .org), which has more than 16,000 books that can be downloaded, read, or searched through.

These primarily are out-of-copyright volumes published before 1923, from Shakespeare to the Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan Doyle. You'll also find interesting odds and ends such as the human genome and pictures of prehistoric cave paintings from the south of France. All of them are free.

The Search Is On

Another useful book site that has been around for a while is the On-Line Books Page (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn .edu). You'll find a listing there of more than 20,000 books that are freely available through the Web. Unlike with Project Gutenberg, you can't search for words in the books, but you can search by title and author. The site also features a section where you can link to books that had once been banned, such as Ulysses and Fanny Hill.

Yet another oldie but goodie is the Internet Public Library (http://www.ipl.org), which provides a window not only to full-text books on the Web, but also to almanacs, dictionaries, quotation collections, directories of associations, and more.

But Google and Yahoo! are charting new territory. Google is working with Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University, the University of Michigan, and the New York Public Library to digitize all or portions of their collections and make them searchable by keyword. …

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