Google is now offering free, downloadable versions of public domain books
that you can find in Google Book search. Unfortunately, there’s no way to browse
through a directory of books that are available. However, you can keyword search
for them easily, sort of.
On the Google Book Search home page,
you’ll see two options below the search box. By default, "All books" is filled
in. Change this to "Full view books." Now search for something you are
Dante’s Inferno, an example both the
Bloomberg cite in stories about the new feature.
When the results appear, click on one of the books that comes up, such as
this one. Over on the right-hand side, in the column just below the title,
you should see a "Download" button. That will let you download the book in PDF
Here’s the problem. Some
Full View books are full view for reading online but not for download, and
Google doesn’t make it easy to narrow in on only the downloadable ones. For
example, here’s a search for
Here’s the first book listed. No downloadable option is offered.
Since Google seems to be making downloadable versions of anything that’s out
of copyright — and since those are books published before 1923 in the US — you
might try an advanced search for books before that date.
here’s a search for all books about Mars for the years 0 through 1922 (FYI,
I did try to search for books older than 0 AD, but the system doesn’t support
negative/BC dates, as far as I can tell).
Overall, this is a nice feature to have. Next time I’m heading on a trip, I
might try downloading some PDF books to read for the journey. But that leads me
to improvements I want to make it easier to find good books:
- Give me a Google
Zeitgeist for book search, or something like
Google Music Trends. I want
to know what people are reading via Google Book Search. What’s the most
downloaded book and so on, especially in different categories?
- Provide a "Downloadable Books" search option, in addition to Full View, so
I know I’m absolutely only going to get back results that match what I’m
- Give me better ranking of downloadable books. Somehow I think there are
much better popular interest books that could be coming up tops for a search
on [mars] than I was finding in my example above.
Looking for more info? From Google’s help pages,
Why is the Download button only available on some books? explains that only
public domain books get the download option right now, and even some of those
have yet to be enabled.
How can I find books that I can download? explains briefly what I’ve
already covered in more depth above, but that might expand over time.
What is a public domain work? explains what books Google considers to be in
the public domain.
Google’s not the only place offering electronic, downloadable books.
Project Gutenberg is probably the best
known long-standing site already doing this, and you can see some of the top
titles here, similar to
what I hope Google will do in the future.
That’s also a handy way to see if Google offers some of the most popular
titles that Project Gutenberg does. So far, the answer is no. I took this top
ten list from Project Gutenberg:
- Fifteen Thousand Useful
Phrases by Grenville Kleiser (334)
- The Adventures of Sherlock
Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (250)
- Kamasutra by Vatsyayana
- The Notebooks of Leonardo
Da Vinci — Complete by Leonardo da Vinci (244)
- Pride and Prejudice by
Jane Austen (220)
- How to Speak and Write
Correctly by Joseph Devlin (197)
- The Victorian Age in
Literature by G. K. Chesterton (187)
- The Art of War by 6th cent.
B.C. Sunzi (170)
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- The Hound of the
Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (165)
I did quick searches using the Full View option along with the titles and
author names. I couldn’t find any of them available at Google for download.
Gary Price has also
ebrary in the past that
offers books for purchase and, I believe, some limited downloads for free. Last
month, he also
wrote of the World eBook Fair making 300,000 titles available for download.
World eBook Library still offers links to
these works, but you have to pay $9 per year for access to them. Wow, look at
all those sci-fi books from Baen,
including the alternative history work 1633 (I
thought 1632 was great, 1633
OK and 1634, ugh!).
Watch ResourceShelf, as Gary’s sure
to post on alternatives to find downloadable books when he gets going later
today. In the meantime, back when he was with us, his
More Sources For
Ebooks & Electronic Text post has a lot of resources you’ll still find
Google’s also still apparently pondering sales of in-copyright works, with
publisher permission, something that was
the company as an idea earlier this year. Amazon’s also got similar plans in the
works, but I don’t recall seeing that having launched yet, despite its
nearly a year ago.
Finally, Google’s also just offered a way for anyone to put a Google Book
Search box on their site.
Now you can add Google Book Search to your site from the official Google
Book Search blog has more, as does this instruction
Postscript: For more resources on downloading books, see Gary Price’s story here.