Google has at last announced the long- (or at least sort of long-) anticipated launch of Google eBooks. With more than 3 million books available online and with a potential library of many, many millions more as a result of their scanning project, Google is offering up a service that I think will turn out to be a significant boon to history teachers, especially those relying on sources published before 1930.
For example, I’m teaching my version of our historical methods seminar in the spring semester and will use Google eBooks to create a library of sources for my students that will be a companion to the Zotero library I create for them. Overall, I’m happier with what Zotero can do, because it offers so much more functionality. What it doesn’t do as easily, though, is provide the whole book in eReader form. What I’m going to ask my students as the semester goes along is which they prefer — the Zotero library or the Google bookshelf?
The sample version of the bookshelf is one I created in a few minutes as I wrote this post. It contains a few complete books (all free) and pages for others (unfree) that my students might access in our local library or the University library. I’ll be interested to hear from them whether the privileged the eBooks over those that they had to go and touch. My guess is that it will be the latter, but that’s only a guess.
Two of the three books I’ve assigned for the class are all available as eBooks for a savings of almost $30.00, so I will also be interested to see whether any of the students purchase ebooks rather than the analog versions. Certainly some recent data from campus bookstores indicates that the students are increasingly likely to go with the ebooks.
Google has a long way to go to improve the interface for the eBooks service. Not being able to tag (or mark up in any way) the materials in my library is a significant drawback for me as I consider this service as a teaching tool. My hope is that as they hear feedback from users we’ll see more and more functionality. You can hear a much more extended (and thoughtful) discussion of Google eBooks in the latest edition of Digital Campus. Check it out and let us know what you think.