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When Books Go Digital

Here’s the PowerPoint I used for a presentation at a faculty meeting at North Shore Community College earlier this week, with all the relevant links below:


  • NOBLE OverDrive — NOBLE’s collection of downloadable ebook and audiobooks
  • OverDrive’s Help Site — Here’s help for using different ebook readers, audio players and mobile devices with our OverDrive collection

Public Domain Books

  • Project Gutenberg — “Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today.”
  • ManyBooks.net — A great source of public domain ebooks which can be downloaded in various formats. RTF (Rich Text File) works well with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc.
  • Diary of Samuel Pepys — A seventeenth century diary is presented in blog format in this beautiful site managed by Phil Gyford

Internet Archive

  • Internet Archive — “The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.”
  • Worcester History Images from the Internet Archive — A post from my personal blog about the capturing images from books in the Internet Archive
  • Internet Archive Images — My Flickr set
  • Riverbank — Example of one of my Internet Archive images posted on Flickr. Note the link back to the original book on the Internet Archive site. (I also use these images in comments on Flickr to add historical perspective to recent photographs, as in this example: Riverbank

Google Books

  • Salem Diner — A regular Google search
  • Salem Diner — Switch from “Everything” to “Books” to get a very different set of results. (The Books option is hiding under More in the left sidebar)
  • Wenham ice — Quotation marks make this a phrase search
  • Lillian Randolph — This Google Books search was limited to magazines
  • Lillian Randolph — News note from Jet magazine
  • Embed Code — The code to embed a page is under the Link option
  • Lillian Randolph — Webpage with embedded page from Google Books
  • Google Books Advanced Search — Searching for the expression “to touch pitch and not be defiled in books by Anthony Trollope. This search worked well enough, but I had to wade through multiple editions books by this prolific author. Since I am very interested in Trollope’s work, I added on edition of each of his books to My Library, which makes this kind of searching easier for me.
  • Searching My Books — This search for Red Cloud is limited to the books I have saved to my library. I was only interested in Red Cloud as it related to Willa Cather, who grew up in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Although I have the Willa Cather books as a separate “bookshelf,” there’s no way I can limit my search to just that bookshelf, so occasionally I get irrelevant hits. If this became a problem, I could set up different Google accounts with different libraries: one for Willa Cather, one for diner books, etc.
  • Importing ISBNs into Google Books — If you have a file of ISBNs from LibraryThing, a biliographic management program, etc., you can import them into Google Books. (You can scan ISBNs into a file using a smartphone with an app like Barcode2File.)

Google Ngrams

Great Article: Reading Dickens Four Ways

Great article by Ann Kirschner in the June 12 edition of The Chronicle Review on the various ways we read today :

Reading Dickens Four Ways — “How ‘Little Dorrit’ fares in multiple text formats”

When Ann Kirschner’s book group decided to read “Little Dorrit,” she has to decide how she wants to read it — in book form, on the Kindle, on the iPhone or as an audiobook. Each format has its advantages and disadvantages, as she discovers, and each has its passionate advocates.

“That’s the worst accusation: that I am not a serious reader. Not guilty! I love books as much as anybody. But I love reading more. It is the sustained and individual encounter with ideas and stories that is so bewitching. If new formats allow us to have more of those, let us welcome and learn from them.”

LibraryThing’s Legacy Libraries

One of the most interesting aspects of Web 2.0 sites is the way members tend to use them for things beyond what the founders originally intended, and that’s certainly the case with LibraryThing.

One fascinating development from members of the LibraryThing community is the Legacy Libraries, a volunteer effort to set enter the book collections of famous readers as diverse as Franz Kafka, Mary, Queen of Scots and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The LibraryThing group I See Dead People’s Books provides a forum for discussion and collaboration on the Legacy Libraries, and resources like a very useful Cataloging Guide by Jeremy Dibble (jbd1) LibraryThing’s Bibliothecarius Mortui, Librarian of the Dead.

Why would anyone bother entering these libraries on LibraryThing? Most of these libraries are based on published lists which are reasonably available to anyone who really cares. But putting these collections on LibraryThing provides some new ways of looking at this information. For example, LibraryThing’s social features make it easy to see the overlap between member’s libraries, which can be interesting. (Not surprisingly, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams share a lot more of titles with each other than either of them share with me, but I share a lot more books with Theodore Dreiser than I do with Hemingway or Fitzgerald.)

Thomas Jefferson’s Legacy Library was the first of the Legacy Libraries, and it’s an especially interesting one. Titles were tagged using Jefferson’s own system:

Thomas Jefferson’s Library also includes nearly two hundred “book reviews” — comments on books taken from his letters and other writings. One of my favorites is on A treatise on practical farming; embracing particularly the following subjects, viz. the use of plaister of Paris… by John Alexander Binns. Jefferson writes: “Mr Binns, a plain farmer… understands handling his plough better than his pen. He is certainly somewhat of an enthusiast in the use of this manure.”


Books for a New President

The New York Times published an interesting article called From Books, New President Found Voice on President Obama’s approach to reading, with a sidebar called “A Reading List That Shaped a President” listing the books mentioned in the article as significant to Obama, including the Bible, “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson and “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville.

In the comments section, now closed, the Times asked public what books they would recommend to the new President, and they got some interesting responses : “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson, “Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge” by Edward O. Wilson, and “Flatland” by Edwin A. Abbott. Many gave reasons for their recommendations, and a few gave other advice.

While most people wanted the President to read widely and deeply to provide himself with the wisdom and knowledge he’ll need as a world leader, Harry Reynolds, of Scarsdale, New York, who offered this advise to the President : “Read any book that disengages your mind from the tasks at hand. Literature should be your refuge and not your source of instruction.” and added “…use a low energy reading lamp. It will tend to induce the sleep you will need and thus benefit you more than any book can yield.”

Libraries might get some equally interesting responses to this question, and the choices might make an interesting display for Presidents Day.

From Books, New President Found Voice
Article by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, January 18, 2009