Celebrating World Book Day

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 5:29 PM

Growing up in Colombia in the '70s, I saw the effects of illiteracy firsthand. Some might take it for granted, but the ability to read is perhaps one of the most empowering acts we can do as individuals and members of society.

This idea is what got me so excited about Google Book Search and, in fact, what brought me to Google. It’s also what makes me so happy about our involvement in The Literacy Project, a joint initiative by Google, LitCam, and UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning to create an online resource for finding and sharing ideas about literacy and promoting reading.

In honor of World Book Day--the day of Cervantes' and Shakespeare’s deaths in 1616-- The Literacy Project is highlighting initiatives that our partners have carried out on local, national, and international levels. You'll find subtitled videos, interactive comic books, and customizable books, as well as information that can be used by other reading organizations around the world. Associations can plot their contact and project details on a searchable map, share ideas through our forum, and find great educational materials from members worldwide.

Check out what one of our members, CAST, has to say about it here. The technology they've developed to make reading easier is just one of the many cool intiatives being featured by The Literacy Project. Read the full post 0 comments


Kant find a book in full view?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008 at 10:49 AM

Having trouble finding a full view version of Hamlet or Pamela? Do you suspect that an old book listed as limited preview may actually be in the public domain? Nicola, a reader from Chicago, had the same feeling when searching for a full view copy of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment in Google Book Search:

I am at it again, trying to find “Critique of Judgment." Now, some 200 years later, it must be well in the public domain, however, I find that someone republished it, and therefore there is no public copy on Google Book Search. I have found this with a lot of old titles; that someone reprints it, and then the full view copy disappears... Help!

Books can go through many editions, but we still strive to make books as accessible as we can for readers. In cases like these, it’s easy to search for other, full view editions of a book in Google Book Search.

One simple way is to check out the ‘More Editions’ link, which is located under book listings on the search results page.

After clicking on this link, you'll be directed to another results page that lists more editions of the same book in our index. Like all Google Book Search results pages, you can restrict the results to only display books in full view. Sure enough, there's a version of the third Critique that's fully browsable.

You can also search for full view books using the Advanced Book Search option, which you'll find to the right of the Google Book Search query box. Make sure to select “Full view only” under the ‘Search’ section.

So next time you need to compare or locate other editions of an older book like the Critique of Judgment, simply click on the ‘More editions’ link and explore its various incarnations. Read the full post 0 comments


Finding a dream on Google Book Search

Friday, April 04, 2008 at 3:07 PM

By nature, I’m a loquacious person, so it should be no surprise that one of my favorite classes in college was a political science course on speakers and speeches. One of the textbooks, Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (by one of my all-time favorite New York Times columnists, William Safire) became one of my most cherished literary discoveries.

In resolving a Trivial Pursuit dispute last week, I consulted it and came across Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. It’s a powerful piece of oration, and after reading over it again, I was inspired to visit Google Book Search to find books containing his writings.

This time, I noticed the ‘Popular passages’ section, which makes it easy to find books that cite a particular block of text – such as speech by Martin Luther King Jr., for example. You'll find this feature to the right of book content on Google Book Search, as in the image below:

As you might expect, portions of this speech have been reprinted in quite a few places. My favorite discovery, though, was to find that the “I have a dream” speech found its way into an SAT prep book.

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech in August of 1963. Less than five years later – and 40 years ago today – his voice was silenced. While we celebrate his life and memory each year on the anniversary of his birthday, the 40th anniversary of his death is a poignant time for reflection on the effect he’s had on America and the world. Read the full post 0 comments


Google Book Search now smells better

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 at 2:45 AM

In the process of scanning and storing images of pages from over a million books, we've benefited from the fact that the book is, generally speaking, a relatively uniform medium. Most books are a bound collection of flat pages, and the variations between volumes lie primarily in page size and number of pages. Our scanning processes work well for almost all of these titles -- we scan the images, clean them up, and present them for view on the Web.

But a small subset of books possess peculiarities that make them hard for us to archive. For example, we hit a snag when trying to scan pop-up books, like this one -- how would one properly present a pop-up book in a browser? We've faced similar problems in scanning and displaying Braille books and flip books.

However, today I'm pleased to let you know that we've made some headway with one type of volume we've struggled with in the past: books employing scratch-and-sniff technology. Using special equipment and tricky JavaScript, we're now able to capture some of the smells during the scanning process and then embed them in your web browser when you preview these titles in Google Book Search.

Intrigued? To start you off, here are a few aromatic examples:

We hope you enjoy the new feature, and we'll let you know when we get something working for those pop-up books. Read the full post 0 comments