Orwell: Author and Dishwasher

Friday, June 26, 2009 at 12:16 AM

George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair 106 years ago on June 25. He is most famous for his last book 1984- one of the most influential books of the 20th century and still blowing minds in the 21st- but rather than offer another high school essay on that grim masterpiece here on the Inside Google Books blog, we want to celebrate and re-introduce his awful but amazingly entertaining first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (among this blogger's favorite books).

Before there was Anthony Bourdain, Orwell blew the lid off the restaurant scene. Down and Out... is a fictionalized story of his life in the late 1920s as a dishwasher in Paris and a tramp in the classic sense of the word in London. As a plongeur he takes the reader into the kitchen of several prominent restaurants. The conditions he describes are not for the faint of heart, though you will read with absolute awe and not a little guilty pleasure. Orwell tartly summarizes one of his employers thus:

"...I used to wonder whether there could be a worse restaurant in the world than ours."

Many people have had a subpar meal, but few expect that their meat or fish spent the night on the floor covered by straw! The book was originally published in 1933 and really tells it like it was. (And don't ask about the over-used bathwater in a charity house in London.)
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Books Are Full of Visual Gems: Famous Facial Hair edition!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 10:16 AM

It may come as no surprise to the book nerds out there (you know who you are), but the annals of written history are full of visual gems.

When you come across something amazing in a public domain title scanned via our library project, you can simply snag the chunk of text or image using our Share this Clip feature in Google Books (). Then, simply take the Embed HTML code and copy and paste it in to your site or blog to add it.

This past April, I decided to cease shaving and see what kind of beard I'd grow if left to my own devices. After five longs weeks, all I'd managed was an unruly and wimpy beard and decided to shave it off. For my next attempt, I'm looking to Google Books for inspiration, and put together this collection of famous facial hair using the Share this Clip feature.

[Please note, some content may not be available in full view to users outside of the United States.]

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Major General Ambrose E. Burnside and the Ninth Army Corps by Augustus Woodbury

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Nietzsche by Paul Elmer More

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New Outlook by Alfred Emanuel Smith

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A Complete Life of Gen. George A. Custer by Frederick Whittaker

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Asgard and the Gods by Wilhelm Wägner

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Anecdotes of the Medical World and Curiosities of Medicine by John Timbs Read the full post 0 comments


New Features on Google Books

Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Think about how you use a book. You want to read it, sure--but there are a host of other ways for you to interact with the words between the covers. You might want to flip through the pages to find an image. You might want to open right up to the table of contents so you can find your favorite chapter. And you might want to pass it along to a friend so they can have a look at it, too.

Today I'm excited to announce that we're rolling out changes to Google Books that give readers and book lovers everywhere new ways to interact with the words and images contained within the books we've brought online. We've also made it easier for users to share previews of their favorite books on their blogs or websites. Here's a tour of some of the enhancements we've made to the way you search, browse, and share the books that we've digitized:

1. Embeds and links - This new toolbar option allows you to embed a preview of a full view or partner book in any of your websites or blogs--all with a simple html snippet. It's a lot like the embed tag that makes it so easy to share YouTube videos. Programmers comfortable with API tools could accomplish this via our Embedded Viewer API, but this new solution is much easier for everyone to use. You can also choose to grab a URL link to email or IM to friends that takes them to the same book and page on Google Books. For readers, this means they can more easily share pages from books you love, while publisher partners can gain even more awareness across the web to promote their books.

2. Better search within each book - You've always been able to search inside books you find on Google Books. Now, for public domain and partner books, we've made it easier to see exactly where your search term appears within the book by showing you more context around the term, including an image from the part of the page on which it appears. You can click on those images to navigate directly to the pages inside the book. You can also sort your search results by relevance in addition to page order in the book or magazine.

In the search results bar, you'll find 'Previous' and 'Next' buttons that allow you to browse through search hits quickly and easily.

3. Thumbnail view - Click on the thumbnail view button in the toolbar to see an overview of all the pages in a public domain book or in a magazine. Clicking on a thumbnail image will take you to that page in the reading view (available for "full view" books).

4. Contents drop-down menu - Above the book itself, you'll find a Contents drop-down that allows you to jump to chapters within the book--or articles within a magazine. (In case you're wondering, we built this using the same structure extraction technology that supports our mobile version of Google Books.)

5. Plain Text Mode - We've made it easier to find our plain text versions of public domain books. If a book is available in full view, you can click the 'Plain text' button in the toolbar to see our HTML version of the text (derived via OCR for full view books). This is especially useful for visually impaired Google users, who can use this format for text-to-speech and other types of software.

6. Page Turn Button and Animation - In addition to scrolling through the book, you can now also click the page turn button at the bottom of the screen, even if you haven't yet finished the page. An animated line moves with the page turn to make it easier to keep track of your location in the text.

7. Improved Book Overview Page - On the Overview page you'll find an assortment of useful data about the book, including reviews, ratings, summaries, related books, key words and phrases, references from the web, places mentioned in the book, publisher information, etc.

We hope that you enjoy these improvements to Google Books. As always, feel free to provide feedback. Happy reading!

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Books Are Full of Visual Gems: Outer Space edition!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009 at 11:00 AM

It may come as no surprise to the book nerds out there (you know who you are), but the annals of written history are full of visual gems.

When you come across something amazing in a public domain title scanned via our library project, you can simply snag the chunk of text or image using our Share this Clip feature in Google Books (). Then, simply take the HTML and copy and paste it in to your site or blog to add it (or choose the option to send it to Blogger).

It's been an exciting few months for space enthusiasts, as the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis recently completed what will be the final repair mission on the Hubble Space Telescope. With outer space on my mind, last night I watched a recent talk on YouTube given at Google by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and then spent an hour perusing the incredible archives of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

This morning I decided to look back at astronomy texts from the pre-Hubble days of the 19th century. I used the Share this Clip feature to pull together this collection of space images. Simply click any image to read the original book source!

[Please note, some images and content may not be available to users outside of the United States.]
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A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century by Agnes Mary Clerke

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The Tides and Kindred Phenomena in the Solar System by George Howard Darwin

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Concerning the Earths in Our Solar System, Which are Called Planets by Emanuel Swedenborg

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Other Worlds Than Ours by Richard Anthony Proctor

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Tract on Comets by François Arago, John Farrar

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Saturn and Its System by Richard Anthony Proctor Read the full post 0 comments


Barcode your bookshelf with Google Books

Friday, June 05, 2009 at 9:58 AM

This week, a Google software engineer named Matt Cutts posted a great Google Books tip on the Google Webmaster Central YouTube Channel. Using a simple USB-powered barcode scanner, Matt shows how you can easily add your books from off your bookshelf at home to the My Library feature in Google Books.

To get started, simply follow the My library link when browsing on Google Books, then click on the Import Books link. Rather than type in the ISBNs by hand, you can use a barcode scanner to read and import the ISBN from the barcode on the back of each hard copy book in your collection.

Once imported, you can rate them and view these titles in My Library on Google Books. The real power of this tip? You can then use Google Books-powered search to browse just the books in you own home library. Check out the details in this video!

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What's in a logo?

Monday, June 01, 2009 at 7:18 PM

You may have noticed new logos on Google properties like Google News or Google Maps. As we said last week on the Official Google Blog, we hope these designs freshen our look and improve consistency among logos and product name formats across all Google sites. Today, our team is joining the movement with our own new logo -- and name.

The goal of our new logos is to streamline their appearance and improve consistency, so we've also taken the opportunity to streamline our name as part of this design, bidding a fond farewell to "Google Book Search" in favor of the shorter, sweeter "Google Books." Starting today, we'll be rolling out the new logo to all Google Books pages.
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