Researching Using Google Books

Sometimes a researcher might need a book that is not at their library. The book might be checked out or only available by interlibrary loan but it is needed immediately. Thankfully due to the Google Books Project, many books have been scanned and made available online. While most are either out of copyright or orphan works, there are also many that are out-of-print or in-print. In short, Google Books is a treasure trove of information.

Reasons Google Books Might Be Useful:

  • Quick access to books.
  • It is a great place to check if the book you need is checked out and it is needed immediately.
  • Full-text is available for out-of-copyright and orphan books.
  • Excerpts and snippets are available for copyrighted works.
  • Google Books can be searched for titles, authors, or ideas.
  • For those with an interest in digital humanities, the books can be data mined.

Accessing Google Books:

  1. To access Google Books directly, the link is
    • Or begin at Google and click “More” to open a drop-down menu.
      “Books” will be one of the options.
  2. Once at Google Books, use the search box on the left. It is labeled “Researching a Topic.”
  3. Select a book from the provided list.

Ways Google Books Can Be Used:

  • Once a needed book is located, it is possible to search within the title.
    Use the search box on the left sidebar.
  • The gear icon on the top right menu opens a drop-down menu that offers an advanced search.
  • Out-of-copyright and orphan books can be downloaded to a computer.
    • Once a book is opened, click the “E-Book” icon on the left sidebar.
      You will need a free Google account.
    • Or, use the gear icon drop-down menu download a PDF copy; Google account not necessary.
  • Copyrighted works can be purchased through Google Play. Again, a Google Account is needed.
    • Once a book is opened, click the “Buy E-Book-[price]” icon on the left sidebar.
  • All books can be saved to a Google account in a personal library.
    • Once a book is opened, just click “Add to my Library” above the text.
      Sign in with a Google account.
  • If you decided you would like to see a print copy, click “Get this book in print” on the left sidebar. A drop-down menu will appear and select a seller or “find in a library.”
    • If you wish to find it in a library, it will open WorldCat and use your location to display the closest libraries with copies.

Other Great Google Books Features:

  • Just like with Goodreads and LibraryThing, books can be rated and reviewed.
  • There are useful reading features: zoom, multi-page views, clickable chapter headings (top, right side), and the ability to click or scroll through.
  • For sharing, permalinks, embedded links, and the clip links are offered.
    • Click the chain link icon above the text to access the permalink and embedding code.
    • To share clips, highlight an area, then click scissors icon above the text. It opens a box with a special URL and embedding code for the highlighted area.

Google Books in HathiTrust:

When it comes to copyrighted works, if you are associated with an academic library you might be able to gain access through the HathiTrust collection instead of paying for a digital copy of a book. HathiTrust incorporates most, if not all, of the books found in Google Books plus thousands of others. However, the only libraries that participate in the project or pay a subscription fee have full access to the collection.

Google Books Pictorial Guide:

Google Book Interface-Nickless

Google Book Interface

  1. Top left menu: Offers zoom, page views, and links.
  2. Upper left sidebar: Offers the ways to access copies of the book online and in print.
  3. Lower left sidebar: Search within the book.
  4. Top right menu: Offers table of contents and clickable arrows.
  5. Gear icon: For advanced search and PDF copies of free books.
  6. Second set of clickable arrows.
  7. Original search terms for the Google Books search.

Note: You may want to enlarge the image for a better look.

The book pictured from this guide was chosen because it is out-of-copyright and I used it to research county histories for my undergraduate university’s digitization project. I was responsible for writing several country history encyclopedia-style entries.

Does anyone have any questions? Do you know a trick or use for Google Books I haven’t covered and wish to share?


7 thoughts on “Researching Using Google Books

  1. Pingback: United States and Worldwide Genealogy Resources | Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

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