22 September 2008

#20: eBooks

It is wonderful that so many books are available online. As expected there were many of the well-known classics on the Project Gutenberg site. To see how the search engine works, I tried out a quick search, using Advanced Search: house keeping in the full text search box, Language - English, LoCC - Technology Home Economics. Results = 70 books. Here are a few interesting titles:
It would have been helpful if there was an indication of the publication date. Full text searching opens up this collection for research. Downloading is easy and, depending on the file size, done fairly quickly. The site is also easy to navigate. (I was delighted to find this book: Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont. Browsing through it reminded me of my grandmother's embroidery.) Had a look at the audiobooks as well. As expected audio files take a bit longer than text to download. Didn't like the computer generated audiobooks - that emotionless voice is creepy to listen to. It was also interesting to see the links to Wikipedia articles on authors - very useful. Project Gutenberg is definitely a site to keep in mind for reference purposes.

LibriVox was another interesting site. I'm impressed by the choices the site offers. Had a look at a few titles. Many of the classics have links to Wikipedia articles (author and title links), also sometimes links to Gutenberg e-text, gives you a choice to download individual chapters or the entire work in a zip file, also the choice to subscribe to RSS chapter-a-day in iTunes. As with all audiobooks, the reader can play a role in your enjoyment of the book, and the audio files are big, so time is a factor when deciding to download. Although a third of the titles are nonfiction (530 at time of writing), it isn't catalogued according to subjects, which makes it more difficult to find information. I think the way to approach nonfiction at LibriVox is to know the title or author of the work you are looking for and not use LibriVox for subject searching.

Google Book Search is a delight to look through. I was surprised to see books published in 2008 listed, e.g. The book of love by Andrew M. Greeley & Mary G. Durkin. This search engine can be very useful in reference work. For example: I did a search for burial artefacts of an ancient Ahtens priestess' grave (a year 12 Classical studies project) and came across a book that had exactly the information I was looking for - will recommend that book for purchase for our library. As with all Google searches you will have to define your search well to avoid getting a long list of irrelevant items.

While doing this exercise I couldn't help but marvel again at the amount of information available at our fingertips and the possibilities the new media opens up. Though, having said that - it is still easier and more comfortable to read printed text. And it isn't just me and people of my generation that will agree with this, but young people who have grown up with computers and the internet will often ask for a hard copy for that same reason.

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