Google Books Makes Content of Millions of Books Searchable

The launch of Google Books has made the content of seven million books available and searchable.  Books that are no longer protected under copyright are often included in their entirety and available for download.  If a book is still under copyright, a limited number of pages may be included as a preview through an agreement with its author or publisher.  The Google Books collection also includes magazines dating back to this December 1972 issue of Life and out-of-print texts, making the database a valuable resource for difficult to find literature. The search functionality of Google Books allows users to search the text inside these books as well as their titles.  For example:

  • If you want to want to search for something you read in a book, you can enter a phrase or sentence as a search term. Entering "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" will correctly return the first page of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities as a top result The search term is highlighted in the actual text of the novel. Click here to see how it works.
  • You can also determine whether a book will be a good resource when you are trying to learn about a person. Searching for "Nelson Mandela" in the Google Bookstore returns 605 books that reference him. Upon selecting a book, you can click "View Sample." Then, use the search tool in the left hand column to find out how many times and on which pages his name appears in that book (i.e., the context of the mention as opposed to the simple fact of a mention.) Click here for an example from Nelson Mandela's Conversations with Myself.

The advanced book search feature allows you to narrow the search parameters with one or more of the following:

  • Amount of text available online (full text vs. limited preview)
  • Type of content (books or magazines)
  • Language of text
  • Title
  • Author
  • Subject
  • Publication date range
  • ISBN number
  • ISSN serial number

After selecting a text of interest, users may save it to a library linked to their Google accounts.  This library is accessible from any device, and will bookmark the last page that was read in each text.  For books that are not available for immediate download, Google provides links for purchasing the book or finding it in a library.