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.

Librarian Reading at the Academic & School Level

I was reading Michelle Leigh Jacobs’ article on “Ethics and Ethical Challenges in Library Instruction” in the  Journal of Library Administration, 47(3/4), and noticed how she clearly defined her views, her role, and the liberal/conservative tug-of-war in academia. Jacobs indicates an uncomfortableness with the struggle while expressing her views as a liberal. She believes that peer-reviewed journals have not grown, have remained conservative, and thus, stifle librarianship because they are not practical for today’s librarian’s needs other than to promote tenure and further a career among colleagues.

In her article, her discussion of the liberal/conservative struggle represents a discussion that should remain alive and well in academia and not silenced from either side. Great ideas and perspective will come from the continuous debate. (She demonstrates how a good librarian works with students providing information representing both sides, even when they – librarian and student – disagree.)

For my take, on the school front, peer-reviewed journals may not make for practical reading either. However, the discussion of ideals brings greater thought to mind. Perspective is pondered. Out of the daily grind, one is taken.

I believe that we must make time to reach beyond the day-to-day living out of our work and grasp higher reading. This may not seem beneficial when we greet the next morning’s problems that are very real, but the reading might help us remember to not become bogged down in daily living by keeping our minds above the fray as we reach for new frontiers on the horizon.

Of course, this does not rule out reading for practical problem solving as Jacobs suggests, such as blogs, or listening to podcasts. These are excellent ways to share in the here and now. As for the school library, we have excellent print and online resources for practical reading, such as SLJ, among others.

What might be of greater importance is that, for peer-reviewed journals, issues that are of the practical realm and are long term should be addressed. Jacobs presents a few of these that should be of concern to academic and school librarians, such as the sharing of information among colleagues through Web 2.0 sources and how these should be documented for future reference.