I ordered a book from Amazon yesterday, even though I can read it for free on the internet. I’d found it on Google Books and decided I wanted a copy of my very own. Of course the nine hundred pages also makes browsing the content on-line a little less than practical-especially with kids waiting at my shoulder and begging to get on the computer. I also like the idea that sponsors who make these books available (Google people, Amazon.com people?) are also seeing some benefit.
At the risk of saying what the readers probably already know, there is a wealth of historical material available now on-line. FOR FREE !!! Google books has quickly become one of my favorite sources. An example I just found is a book written on the history of the Donner Party, copywrited in 1879 and republished in 1907, over one hundred years ago. How cool is that?
This is also an illustrated work, which adds that much more. Current academic texts can be interesting to local historians, but nothing can match the perspective, writing style and “feel” of an older work written by someone who lived the same type of life as the person they were writing about.
I found Helen Carpenter’s story in Google Books, which gives an invaluable first hand description of Indian slave traders. I have found a lot of other info on-line that way.
A warning. Not all of the books are available as complete texts. Google explains it this way…
Many of the books in Google Books come from authors and publishers who participate in our Partner Program. For these books, our partners decide how much of the book is browsable — anywhere from a few sample pages to the whole book.
For books that enter Google Books through the Library Project, what you see depends on the book’s copyright status. We respect copyright law and the tremendous creative effort authors put into their work. If the book is in the public domain and therefore out of copyright, you can page through the entire book and even download it and read it offline. But if the book is under copyright, and the publisher or author is not part of the Partner Program, we only show basic information about the book, similar to a card catalog, and, in some cases, a few snippets — sentences of your search terms in context. The aim of Google Books is to help you discover books and learn where to buy or borrow them, not read them online from start to finish. It’s like going to a bookstore and browsing – with a Google twist.
Fortunately for us, a lot of the historical stuff is old enough to be out of public domain and no longer protected by copywrite laws. So, check out Google Books when doing your research (but make sure there isn’t anyone in line waiting for the computer, because you could be there awhile… )