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    Re: Google Books
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2007 May 29, 11:09 -0400

    Hello Henry,
    
    Google books does work. You don't really need a high-speed connection, but
    it certainly helps. I think if I walk you through a specific case, finding a
    book, using it online, searching within it, and then downloading it, it
    might help.
    
    Let's start with the process of searching for books. Like anything else on
    google, you need to know some tricks. First, we need the home address for
    google books so we can bypass all the other google services. It is
      http://books.google.com
    Instead of saving this address, I recommend bookmarking the address of the
    "advanced search" page for google books:
      http://books.google.com/advanced_book_search
    On this page, you can narrow searches by author, title, specific phrases in
    the text of the book, and also publication date. Note that these searches
    work most of the time, where "most" means more than 50%. Sometimes, for
    example, when you request books published before , let's say, 1905, you will
    get books published in 2006 because they are part of a series that began
    publication before 1905, or because the data record is wrong. Google books
    is adding content at an extraordinary rate, and there are errors in the
    indexes. But in a way, that adds to the fun. You can find interesting old
    books tucked away in "dusty corners" even in cyberspace. Because of this
    quirky behavior, I recommend trying various different search patterns when
    you're looking for books.
    
    Let's find a specific book. Suppose I'm interested in reading David
    Thomson's navigation manual on lunars. Several years ago, George Huxtable
    and Jan Kalivoda carried on an interesting discussion about an edition of
    this book (it's in the archive: www.fer3.com/arc, search on "Thomson").
    Let's update that discussion by seeing what we can find through google
    books.
    
    On the google books advanced search page, I type in "David Thomson lunar" in
    the box that says "find results  with all of the words" (the top box). In
    the date section, I set an upper limit for date of 1860 (I tried 1899 first
     --too many matches). Then click search. The very first item returned is
    relevant, but it's just a reference within another book. This often happens.
    Many 19th century books included catalogs and indexes of other publications
    in the back. These are indexed by google just like any other text. The
    second hit, however, is very useful. It's an obituary of Thomson from the
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. When I click on it, I
    immediately see a page from that journal with the search terms highlighted.
    This page should appear on your computer within ten seconds even on a
    dial-up connection. Note that the page displays in Adobe Reader. It's
    important for online documents that you have a relatively recent version of
    this or an equivalent "pdf" reader installed on your computer. In the
    obituary in the MNRAS, we learn various interesting things about Thomson's
    life including the fact that his navigation tables are in an 11th edition
    after only ten years in print (this is a clever publisher's trick as it
    turns out --they're referring to "printings" as "editions" to boost sales).
    As a matter of trivia, I learned from this obit that Mauritius used to be
    commonly called "the Mauritius".
    
    Back to the search results list (alt+left arrow key on the keyboard is a
    fast shortcut to the previous page in many web browsers), there are several
    random hits, another obituary, and then around item seven in the search
    list, there it is: "Lunar and Horary Tables for ascertaining the longitude"
    by David Thomson from 1845. So we click that...
    
    When a "full view" book opens in google books, it often opens to a page in
    the middle of the volume. For me, in this case, it opened to an
    advertisement published in the book (interesting in its own way). I want to
    look at the title page, so I go to the panel on the right, click "Table of
    Contents" and then scroll up within the pages of the book until I see the
    title page (sometimes the panel on the right gives a direct link to the
    title page but not always). The title page tells me that it's the 30th
    edition (his publishers have been busy) from 1845 and identifies it as the
    correct book.
    
    Your first instinct may be to download as quick as possible, but it's not
    necessarily the way to go. Consider that the entire book has been rendered
    by OCR behind the scenes on google. This means that you can search the
    content of the book. You can't do this on your own computer unless you have
    OCR (optical character recognition) software installed. We can search for
    specific words in the book, for example, "Aldebaran". In the right-hand
    panel, scroll down a bit to the box that says "Search in this book" and type
    in Aldebaran. The search returns three hits (this is the minimum number
    since OCR is not perfect, especially with old text). The third hit takes us
    to page 58 which gives Thomson's instructions for finding Aldebaran in the
    sky. There's a whole section on identifying the bright stars. On that same
    page, I thought it was interesting that he spelled Betelgeuse as Betelguese
    (twice). That spelling to me indicates that he was accustomed to pronouncing
    that star name with a "hard" g (as in get) [try searching on both spellings
    in all books in google books... it's a common alternative spelling as it
    turns out]. You can do this "search in this book" trick even using long
    phrases. For example, type "mean time" (WITH the quotes, to indicate that
    it's a phrase) in the search box, and it will return all references to that
    exact phrase, within the limits of OCR, in this book.
    
    There are two other interesting links in the right-hand panel. Near the top,
    there's an "About this book" link which will take you to some useful info,
    worth exploring, and at the very bottom on the right-hand panel, there is a
    link that says "Other Editions" and you'll note that it gives a link to an
    edition of these tables from 1825. We'll get back to that in a minute...
    
    Now of course, you can read as much as you want online, but it's also very
    convenient to download these books and maybe print out sections. I think all
    of us on this list are pack-rats, and it's hard to resist collecting all
    these books even though they're online at our fingertips. In that right-hand
    panel again, up at the top, there's a button that says "Download" and next
    to it "PDF - 37.5M". Now that's not a huge download, and most of these old
    navigation books are in that size range, but on a dial-up line, it will
    still take a while. Supposing you are getting effective download rates of
    40kbps, this download should take a little more than 15 minutes. This should
    *not* be a problem for any but the noisiest dial-up Internet connections. On
    my high-speed connection (well, not really mine --one of my various
    neighbors' connections... the air is filled with wireless Internet around
    here), this book downloads in about 75 seconds.
    
    After it's downloaded, you can read Thomson's book offline at your leisure.
    And if you ever do need to search for something in the book, you can pop
    online, us the "Search in this book" function, get a page number, and get
    back offline again. It's very convenient.
    
    Let's get back to that "Other Editions" function. Google books attempts to
    link different versions of the same book and also provides links to books
    that reference the book you're viewing. When we follow the link to the 1825
    edition of Thomson's tables, we find that this scan comes from a copy of the
    tables at Oxford University and that it was scanned on March 7, 2007. This
    gives you an idea how rapidly this resource is growing. Many books relevant
    to our little obsession have come online just in the past few months. When
    you click the "Read This Book" button, sure enough, it's another copy of
    Thomson's tables, the 2nd edition, with some interesting, minor differences
    from the "30th" edition (1845). You'll also notice that there's no
    "Download" button. Although most of the older books include a download link,
    some don't. I don't see any particular rhyme or reason to this, and I think
    it's due mostly to the fact that this service is so new. It's also free.
    Since no one's paying for it except by meager ad revenues, it is improved
    and updated in a rather haphazard way. But I'm not complaining (yet)! It's
    an amazing collection of old books.
    
    Here's another book search to try on googlebooks. Go to the advanced search
    page (see above) and type in "lunarian" in the top search box. Under author
    (sixth box down), type in "Arnold". Then search. And lo and behold, there it
    is! Arnold's "American Practical Lunarian" from 1822 which you, Henry,
    brought to the group's attention a couple of years ago. Now you can download
    a copy so that you don't risk damaging the spine by opening your old copy
    (another big advantage of these scanned books).
    
    Finally, because this is a free product, it is also limited in many ways. Of
    course, more recent books are protected by copyright, so you can only see
    small "snippets" via googlebooks, but they're still fully searchable online.
    And many of the scanned pages are flawed. Personally, I find that this is
    not much of a problem. Most books are 98% scanned correctly. A slightly
    larger problem is that the search functions are based on imperfect OCR. This
    is just the nature of the beast, but it would be nice if google could add a
    function to search intelligently for similar words. For example, the phrase
    "lunar observations" might be rendered as "luner observations". Then again,
    in old documents, spelling was often different. As it turns out, when you
    search with this apparent mis-spelling, google returns various references to
    the journals of Lewis & Clark, who apparently DID spell it "luner
    observations" here and there.
    
    I should say this: I use google books each and every day. I get lost in it,
    it's so amazingly useful for historical research. So if you have technical
    difficulties or trouble on the learning curve with this tool, I can only
    encourage you to try again and again and again. It's worth the work.
    
     -FER
    http://www.HistoricalAtlas.com/lunars
    
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