Monday, March 05, 2007

Google Books - Librivox

It is hard to leave the keyboard…

Google Books. Yikes! I’m building a digital book library that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, that’s if you could possibly find many of these books for sale at any price!

As a former Rare and Out-of-Print bookseller, it is mind-boggling to think what this must be doing to that vocation. There is no doubt that the ‘ownership’ of a rare edition or of a very hard to find book is an exciting thing. The usual procedure for a collector would be to locate, purchase, covet and protect. However, this instant gratification of having the digital text available right at your fingertips, saved on your own media, is also a VERY exciting thing and gives me the warm and fuzzies.

This past week I have been able to expand two of my own family lines by busting through the inevitable brick walls that we all build with time. The books gave references to people, events, locations, etc., in the lives of a couple of lines that I have been carrying forever. None of this secondary evidence is anything that you can ‘take to the bank,’ but they sure will send me in the right direction to be able to locate the primary source documents to substantiate the claims. You all do that right? Oh, by the way, after the walls come down there are now immediately four more sets of ancestors to prove. Man, I love this obsession.

My vision of Google is something like a group of computer nerds, that had a cool idea, started a website and were blown away by the instant success for a tool that could find things on the Internet. They must have received backing and investors to grow with, and now have become a megalopolis of their own, all encompassing and like OZ behind the curtain, must still be one little old nut behind the joy stick that is in ‘control.’

It does not seem like they are a physical entity, just a bunch of computers, spread out all over like a spider web, all inter-connected to the Universe in order to gain eventual control of everything. And no, I do not smoke pot!

Well those are the inner thoughts of course. I’m sure that they are a very efficient, well run, well organized corporation of executives with a plan to benefit man-kind all over the world. What they have done to date and what they obviously will continue to do is just totally overwhelming to me.

Now in case you have been downloading since my last message about Google Books, here is another thing that you can get involved in, just in case you have any spare time. Go there, sign up, read some books aloud, donate the audio files to the Internet and become another of my heroes. These people are nuts like you and me, and you will find audio books on any topic that have previously been recorded, all by volunteers and all totally free to the world.

So if Google Books and Project Gutenberg and other on-line text services can put the books that are in the public domain up on the Internet, then you can help to digitally convert them to audio mp3 files. Take these audio books anywhere. Play them on your laptop, a CD-ROM player or even your I-pod of choice, just so you do not turn to jelly because there is no input into your grey matter at every moment.

Is there no end to it?

Some questions bug me about Google Books, such as “There ain’t no body to ask questions of.” I’ve been looking for some on-line forums where the whole discussion is in regards to GB specifically, but have not yet found one. There are several forums that discuss this subject amongst other topics, but no one that I have found yet seems to have any hook into insider knowledge. We need that.

I want to know why only one volume of a multi-volume set of books is available? Are they chumming? Spreading bait on the water to get you hooked? In order to get the other books in the series will you have to become a member? He, he, he, gotcha! Can you spell ‘f-e-e-s?’ A couple of other words that you might not have to dig out the thesaurus on are; “memberships and subscriptions.” OK, so like paranoia, it is good to be a little cynical.

If Google Books is putting up 3,000 books a day, and from one of the announcements I read recently that Princeton University has signed on and are making their full collection available (11 million items divided by 3,000 comes to about 10 years to me,) then when will it ever be complete?

Well enough of this musing, I’ve got books to download!

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