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July 3, 2007

Google Book Search Is More Accessible

Google Book Search lets you see the actual text of public domain books, not just the scanned images. If you click on "view plain text" in the sidebar, you'll only see the pages that contain text. This is useful if you want to copy some text: just select the text and press Ctrl+C. But it also opens up "hundreds of thousands of books to people who use adaptive technologies such as speech output, screen readers, and Braille displays". It's strange that Google only offers the option to download the books as PDFs and not as text files or HTML files, like many other sites (Project Gutenberg's search features are pretty bad). Google doesn't make it easy to find public domain books either: not all the books that are available in "full view" are in the public domain.

Another enhancement is an AJAX-less version of the site, that should work better on older browsers and mobile devices.


  1. Is there software that can turn text into MP3 files? This would increase the number of books on tape (or books on Ipod that I have.

  2. There are many apps that do that, but I found one that's free and pretty decent: TTSReader. Of course, the problem with these apps is that the free voices sound like a robot and are hard to understand. Human voices cost around $50 (like these voices from Nuance).

    There's also a site that offers free audiobooks from the public domain. There aren't too many and most of them are incomplete, but it's an interesting project.

    Other sites that offer free audiobooks:,, simplyaudiobooks.

  3. There is one more site which provides such kind of service(though I haven't tried it out.)

    documents uploaded in are also available in mp3 format...

  4. Why can't they implement something like on where you can select text directly from the images?

  5. I read your post with interest and felt compelled to post a response to tell you about - we publish the Recognized version of a scanned public domain book.

    So how does the Recognized version of a book differ from the book formats already on Google Book Search? We preserve the original format of the book, including graphics and photos; so the book appears as though it was recently created on a computer, not printed centuries ago. Rather different from scanned images of a book or plain text!

    We’ve been digitizing books for years as a hobby and when I first looked a GBS, I thought it was great but…. – is a full text and full retrieval search engine focused on delivering the Recognized version of a scanned book that is out of copyright; that you can read online or download in PDF format.

    The system is still being developed and we’re still ironing out the kinks for example the books aren’t spellchecked yet; the next phase is to publish several different versions of the books; these include

    • Recognized version of the complete book - all pages – rather than single pages like those indexed at the moment.

    • Recognized and layered version of the complete book.

    • Recognized, layered, and spellchecked version of the complete book – the ones online at the moment aren’t spellchecked.

    • Recognized version of the complete book with a copy of the original PDF embedded page-for-page in it's own independent layer.

    • Collated version of the original PDF and the recognized version in a twin-view window for side-by-side correction.

    • Integrating our own public domain library into the mix.

  6. i cant find 'view plain text' option on sidebar
    so can ya tell me how to copy text.plzzzz....

  7. The option is available only for public domain books.

  8. Another website that offers free audiobooks is