What is Google Books?

Category: Reference

You may have heard that Google is trying to steal all the books ever written. You may also have heard that Google is going to give away all the books ever written. Is there any truth to either one of these rumors? Read on to find out...

Google Books

Google Books - Fact and Faction

The truth is that neither of those rumors really matters to those who love books. Google Books is putting many, many books online for you to search for; sample in part, read in full; and even download in PDF and other file formats. Many books you can read in full or download for free. Others you have have to buy, for much less than a hard copy would cost. That's a good thing!

But you have to take the bad with the good, don't you? Only the truest things survive long enough to become cliches. What one person welcomes about Google Books, another fears and hopes to suppress.

I suggest that you not concern yourself about the matter; you aren't going to do anything to change the outcome. But if you are simply curious, here is a sampling of the things people welcome and fear about Google Books:

Things Readers Welcome About Google Books

  • It helps people find information they would otherwise not find.
  • It helps publishers and authors sell books they would otherwise not sell.
  • It encourages reading and scholarship.
  • It provides knowledge upon which new books are based.
  • It provides price-dampening competition for Amazon and its digital books, including Kindle ebooks.

Why Some Authors, Publishers, And Book Sellers Don't Like Google Books

  • It diverts readers from books from which money can be made
  • It tends to drive the profit in book writing, publishing, and selling towards zero
  • It is feared, for reasons not clearly articulated, that Google might assert ownership of books that are currently in the public domain.

Google probably won't do that last one. There is no apparent profit in doing so, only the suffering of drawn-out, expensive litigation. Google is a corporation, so of course they want to maximize profits. But land grab of public domain books would not serve that purpose, and it probably would damage their public image as well. As the Ancient Romans said, "Our fears always outnumber our dangers."

Finding the Good Stuff at Google Books

You can go to Google Books and search for books (and even magazines) in the usual ways. The search box at the top of the page allows you to search by title and author, or you can choose a category to explore. A Google Books for mobile application is also available for Android and iPhone users.

But here is an application that makes Google Books even more delightful to use: The Google Book Downloader (GBD) allows you to easily download books in easy-to-read PDF format, so they look very much like hard copy books on your screen.

Even better, GBD lets you search through hidden pages -- those not indexed by Google which therefore will not appear in Google Books Search results. The program helps you organize and track multiple search results; books you've downloaded; books you plan to download; and so on. It's much more helpful to researchers than the bare-bones Google Books Search. The GBD runs under Windows and requires installation of Microsoft's .NET Framework. You will be prompted to download .NET if it isn't already on your computer.

For various legal reasons, only U.S. residents can download certain books. GBD uses geolocation technology to approximate where you are plugged into the Internet. The exact method is not specified but it probably has to do with the IP address assigned to your computer. If you're a U.S. resident overseas, and you have trouble using GBD, check out my article on How to Hide Your IP Address for some possible solutions.

Give Google Books a try, and definitely check out the GBD application. I predict you'll be curled up with a good PDF in no time. Post your comments and questions about Google Books below...

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Most recent comments on "What is Google Books?"

Posted by:

Zeke Krahlin
15 Sep 2009

Want to learn more about Google's tactics? See:


Posted by:

16 Sep 2009

I had already stumbled upon Google Books by accident when searching information. When I realized I was reading an actual book I was delighted. I read many snippets at Amazon and often end up buying the book, so for those who are readers I believe this will tend toward more sales than less.

May the crooks among us become enlightened that their karma perpetuates their actions upon themselves.

Posted by:

18 Sep 2009


Now all we need is for these books to be in audio format.

Posted by:

19 Sep 2009

The Google Book Downloader may be an additional tool for a serious researcher in assisting that person to FIND additional books. I do not recommend using it to actually download books.

All of the books that I have, so far, wished to download have had a "Download - PDF" link. I ran test downloads - using an identical set of books - first using the download link and then using the GB Downloader.

Using the "Download - PDF" link, a 500-page book downloads in about 30 seconds with a moderate broadband connection. The resultant PDF file is complete and legible. Using the GB Downloader, downloading the same book takes 25 minutes. And the PDF file that I have to tell it to make contains many partial or blank pages where full ones should be.

I have uninstalled the Google Book Downloader.

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