Killer books

Thursday, September 07, 2006 at 6:43 PM

In the main lobby at the Googleplex, there's a display showing a three-dimensional globe, with exploding geysers of color representing search queries typed in by people around the world. It's always fascinating -- even a little awe-inspiring -- to see such a vivid demonstration of people's curiosity.

I had a similar feeling the other day when a colleague showed me this blog by Laura James, Esq. -- a true crime aficionado and history buff who tracks down and publishes information about "forgotten true crime stories and the fascinating people who wrote them." One of her recent discoveries: out-of-copyright crime history books in Google Book Search:
So far, the gem of the Google crime collection is Hanging in Chains, a book by Albert Hartshorne published in 1891. The book details severe punishments through time and cultures, covering everything from the disposal of murderers in ancient Egypt all the way up through various European manifestations of severe punishments like gibbeting or hanging in chains -- a punishment not solely reserved for pirates, and one used until well into the nineteenth century. Until Google digitized the book, you'd be hard-pressed to find a copy for less than a hundred bucks. Now it's free.

I can hardly believe our collective luck at having these amazing old books, all of them out of print for generations, free, online, and text-searchable. Wow. Enjoy!
It's great to know we're helping people unearth hard-to-find books that satisfy their curiosity -- about historical events and every other topic imaginable. (Speaking of history, I can't resist adding a pointer to our brand new News Archive Search, which lets people search news articles stretching back more than 200 years. Give it a try.)


No comments: