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September 6, 2007

An Online Version of Your Library

Google Book Search has an incredibly useful new feature that lets you build a virtual library of your favorite books. You can import the books if you have a list of ISBNs or search them and click on "Add to library".

Your library has a public URL you can share with other people (here's mine) and even a feed. You can also write reviews, rate the books or categorize them using tags. Probably the most important reason you should build the library is because it becomes searchable. Imagine being able to find a scene from one of your books without knowing its title and by typing some keywords that describe the scene. Of course, Google didn't index all the books in the world, so many of your favorite books aren't yet searchable.

Another new feature is the "cover view", a way to only see the book covers and leave out the additional details. To find the author and the title of a book, hover over its cover.

Book summaries also show popular fragments quoted by other books. "Digitized text is useful beyond search, too. It enables us to infer connections between books through shared passages. (...) You can discover connections between books through quotations like this in a feature we call Popular passages," notes the Google blog.

New York Times reports that Google will also add a way to view the full text of some copyrighted books, but I hope this won't end up like Google Video Store. "This fall, Google plans to start charging users for full online access to the digital copies of some books in its database, according to people with knowledge of its plans. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google. So far, Google has made only limited excerpts of copyrighted books available to its users." I discovered this new feature in January in a Google page that describes how it works: "With online access, users who discover a book through Google Book Search will be able to pay for immediate access to its full contents. (...) The book will be available to users only through their browser, and only when they've signed in with their personal account. Users cannot save a copy on their computer or copy pages from the book."


  1. Now all they need to add is categories, so you can make your wish list.

  2. Check out Its the same online library, where I can show off my favourite books to the world (and my friends), make wish lists, read reviews, add tags to the books and have discussions and virtual book-clubs.

  3. LibraryThing has been around several years and is far superior to Google's offering and also slightly better than Shelfari (Amazon's offering).

  4. Not particularly useful, I compiled a quick list as well though.

    Only two out of 16 had 'Limited Preview' available, despite all the books in the list being relatively popular. Google have a long way to go before they accomplish their goal.

  5. i dont' like the idea of having to pay for LibraryThing to post a list online, when i could do it for free

  6. LibraryThing is pretty similar to Google's library, except that you can't search the actual text of the books. LibraryThing has a lot of advanced options, though (tag-based browsing, book recommendations, widgets, member rating, discussion boards).

  7. Oh, and LibraryThing is free. It also has a cool import tool.

    "Give it a file or a URL and it will spot all the ISBNs, track them down for you and add the books to your library."

  8. LibraryThing says to:

    "Use a CueCat barcode scanner to import your books quickly. They plug into your USB port and read bar codes."

    what a memory...

  9. I can't believe that they don't detect hyphens when you enter the ISBN numbers in the import tool.

    Other than that - it is great.

  10. There's some cool books on your books list!

  11. "The book will be available to users only through their browser, and only when they've signed in with their personal account. Users cannot save a copy on their computer or copy pages from the book."

    So now we know it is doomed to fail. Haven't they learned anything from the mp3/movie industry?

  12. The ISBN began to appear in books in the U.K. in 1967, in the U.S. in 1968, and was endorsed as a standard in 1969. Books have been with us for a lot longer than forty years, and some of us own books that were published well before the late 1970s. Caveat lector.

    J.L. Logan
    Literature Bibliographer
    Princeton University

  13. What would be great would be to be able to search in your friends' books list, so you can find something interesting to read when you search for a subject, and you know from whom you can borrow.

  14. If your friends share the link to their libraries, you can already do that. Of course, it would be nice to have those links in Gmail's contact manager and to have an option to search all the libraries built by your friends. Picasa Web Albums already has this.

  15. I created a library but couldn't perform any searches on it. All my searches came up blank -- even a search for the word "the". What gives?


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