Searching for Online Books

I love my Kindle, just as I love my paper-bound books. Now, I am beginning to find a great deal of usefulness for the wealth of online books that are available. They come in various categories.

  1. Books in the public domain, published prior to 1924.
  2. Books that carry a Creative Commons license and are usually created in open document format (ODF) and/or converted to PDF.

Books in the public domain may be scanned by volunteers or paid workers who contribute a library’s collections to the online environment. These books with the older publication date provide a rich view of what has gone before. Some might even be required reading for assignments, and they are available for free for everyone in the class at the same time of access!

Books that carry a Creative Commons license are added to the online environment so that their contents reach many more readers than a print copy would. Much of the time, readers may print the entire book or only portions for their personal use. As long as a reader has a computer and Internet access, these books are available for learning.

Various ways to access both types of books are available. Probably the most well-known is Google Books. At Google Books, one may read reviews, view content (sometimes limited), view sellers of the book, and more. Using the Overview link, a reader is able to see what is available online concerning that particular book. Professional reviews as well as contributing reviews are helpful in the decision for reading the book. Common terms and phrases are included in a text cloud that helps to define the material contained within its contents. Surprisingly, a map is included to label the places that are mentioned in the book.

Personally, I am considering all of the possibilities for use when students read a book.

For Microsoft users, the Live Book Search has been canceled. An explanation may be found here.

Online services that require a fee are available for online books that may not fit into either of the categories I listed. The text of these e-books may indeed be under copyright at the time of access.

Some of the providers of e-books include:

SkillSoft’s Books24x7 – one of the more expensive services where you are able to download chapters (if  you are a corporate customer) in PDF. Most of the books are business, authoritative titles.

Questia – a much more affordable subscription-based service with e-books that cover a wide range of topics. I was an early adopter of Questia and found it a wonderful way to read and take notes on my reading. By clicking on the Education link, you are able to view all of the books included in the e-library on that topic.

ebrary – a service that requests a small registration fee to get you started. Then, when you find something you want to print/download, you pay per page.

Open Content Alliance (OCA) at the Internet Archives – this is the jackpot of e-books! Many contributed collections may be accessed from here.

Open Library – an online catalog for accessing all types of books, where you may select to buy, borrow, or browse.

The Global Text Project – provides you with three types of content: e-content, books that have been scanned, and links to online books that may be of interest.

School Library Access & Authentication

How do your students access school library materials and databases? Are they using their private information to do so? How far does that information travel beyond the school’s physical walls?

[Note: I do no propose that I am an expert on how data and private information is stored about students. What I want to do is consider how it is collected, stored, and what may happen to it. I believe that if we do not think about this, then we are not doing our jobs as librarians.]

When students desire to access materials, the librarian identifies them in some manner. This is authentication. As school librarians are well aware, there are ethical issues surrounding the private information of students. How students are identified for authentication in a library management system requires careful consideration. If the library’s automation system is contained to that one campus, then the issue of protecting patrons’ information is not as wide and broad as it is for a school library with an integrated online automation system or a virtual library system. The latter systems create user clickstreams, research trails, and possible other stores of data that might be traceable back to an individual student.

What is required of the librarian is an understanding of how information is stored. Decisions should be made to limit the amount of information that is collected to be stored. This would include login information. Records over time should be kept confidential or scrubbed.

The American Library Association (ALA) has a Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records, Code of Ethics, and a model of a privacy policy to help with the privacy and security implications. When working with database vendors (secondary parties) and reading their privacy policies, one will find that their privacy policies may not protect students (patrons) as well as ALA recommends. If you are unsure about this, check out an e-book or audiobook provider’s privacy policy to see if they are tracking and profiling their users.

Overall, the goal should be to protect students’ private information. Consider how students access the OPAC, checkout materials, research, and how their information is stored as they go about accessing what the school library has to offer. Is their private information safe, or is it available to secondary and third parties where it may not be encrypted or traceable back to the individual?