Friday, October 12, 2007

Ebooks: How to Get to Them, How to Use Them

As the information world becomes more and more digitized, having the right tools to access the rich resources out there in cyberspace becomes more and more important.

One of the more exciting trends for libraries is the digitization of books, which is proceeding, thanks to Google and other vendors and libraries, at a tremendous pace. Many of those which are available up to now are books which are out of copyright and are available as pdf or html versions online. But many more newer books which are in copyright are becoming accessible now as well--usually for a fee for individual titles or through a subscription database.

How has the Bessie Chin Library kept pace with this trend in publishing? The library has access to thousands of electronic books (ebooks) via its subscription databases. These include Gale’s Virtual Reference Library (28 titles like West’s Encyclopedia of American Law), the Oxford Reference Online Premium collection (236 titles like The Oxford Companion to the Photograph and The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature), QuestiaSchool (more than 30,000 books on all subjects, as well as journal and magazine articles).

Many more individual books have been cataloged and are accessible through the library OPAC (online catalog). When you see a link to ELEC. ACCESS in the catalog record you can click on the link to retrieve the electronic version of that title. You and your family can use these resources by going to the library’s home page <> and logging in to the appropriate database or clicking on the “Catalog Home Access” link.

More ebooks are available to Marin County residents through MARINet, which makes ebooks available through its online catalog. A list of ebook collections available from MARINet is found on their Reference Databases page. <>

These are full-text, full-image books in different formats, including pdf and MP3, without a limit on how much you can read, annotate, etc. Usually there is a limited time period during which you can access the books (14 days is typical). MARINet has subscriptions to books from the Digital Library Consortium, NetLibrary, Safari Tech Books and the Virtual Reference Library.

Outside of library portals finding full-text books online can be challenging. A recent posting on the Resource Shelf suggests knowing about and using more than one online book service. A person looking for full-text books has plenty to choose from. Just as you wouldn’t rely on only one web search engine for every search (would you?), try some different tools for finding books online.

Here are some examples.

· Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” and MSN’s Live Book Search are two to consider. Often the a preview (the ability to “search inside”) is available on one service but not the other. Like other services, books that offer 100% of their content online (primarily titles where the copyright has expired, e.g. Baseball Notes for Coaches and Players, published in 1916) can often be downloaded as PDF files at no charge. <>

· <>

· The Online Books Page is the place to begin for freely accessible full-text books online. There is a new listings page with hundreds of books listed weekly (including Gutenberg and Google Library Program titles) which you can subscribe to by RSS feed. <>

· Ebrary offers over 20,000 NEW full text books for free (pay only to print or copy, about twenty-five cents). <>

· The World Public Library offers more than 500,000 full text titles. <>

· The International Children’s Digital Library is a great site to find titles from across the globe written for children of all ages. <>

· The British Library provides a service called Turning the Pages which has digitized versions of interesting historical texts and uses the most recent technology to make them fun to read. <>

· A number of full text collections are available from The Internet Archive.

· NetLibrary is a service that many public libraries offer at no charge, without having to visit the library. <>

· Finally, the Digital Book Index lists over 137,000 online books with nearly 100,000 available free. <>

As we continue with the project of completely digitizing the world I hope we won’t lose contact with the printed word. Printed books do have their advantages. And the printed book is still one of the greatest inventions of all time. For an interesting comparison of the two formats check out a blog entry by the digital book publisher, Phil Davis.

No comments: