How to find complete multi-volume works in Google Books

While Google’s agreement on copyrighted books has been the subject of much discussion lately, they’ve also been continuing to add public domain titles at a brisk pace.  For instance, they announced in February that they now had 1.5 million public domain volumes formatted for mobile devices.  And last week, they noted that they had completed their scans of hundreds of thousands of volumes of 19th century public domain books from Oxford’s Bodleian library.

If you look at the three example book links in their Oxford post, you’ll notice that each of them goes to a volume of a multi-volume edition.   Works from the nineteenth century and before were often originally published in multiple volumes, such as the “three-decker” format common for Victorian novels.  When such books are reprinted today, they’re usually printed as a single volume, but to read all of many Google titles, you’ll have to range over multiple volumes.

Unfortunately, as various readers have noted, it can be quite difficult to find readable copies of all of the volumes in a multi-volume edition.  For various reasons, they often don’t all come up when you do a search for a particular title.  This can make readers think there are no complete digital editions of a work they’re seeking, even when there are.

In working with people who have helped me fill requests for public domain books, I’ve compiled a series of techniques for finding complete multi-volume sets in Google Books.  I’d be happy to hear additional tips from readers.

  • First, do a search for full-view volumes of the work you’re looking for.  One good way to do this is to go to Google’s advanced book search page, select the “full view only” option, and enter author and title words in the appropriate blanks.
  • If you get a hit, check the start and the end of the scan, to verify which volumes are actually present. Sometimes you’ll find more than one volume in the scan, either because multiple volumes were bound together, or because Google combined volumes in its scan.
  • Go to the “about this book” page for the scan, and look in the lower regions to see if there is an “Other editions” section. This often includes links to other volumes, not just other editions. If there’s a “See more” at the bottom of such a section, click on it to see more volumes or editions.  (Sometimes Google will have multiple editions as well as multiple volumes for the same work.  It’s best when possible to compile volumes from the same edition.  You can do this by matching publishers and dates between volumes, though keep in mind that some multivolume editions came out over the course of multiple years.  Editions from different publishers, or from different times, may have inconsistent content, and might not divide into volumes at the same points.)
  • If the book is from the University of Michigan (as reported either in the “about this book” page or in the scanned front pages) check the Mirlyn catalog for the book. Sometimes this will turn up volumes scanned by Google that have been put in the Hathi Trust repository, or in Google Book Search itself, but that for some reason don’t show up in an ordinary Google books search. Some other Hathi Trust libraries also have links to digitizations of their content; see this page for details.
  • If this didn’t turn up all the volumes you’re looking for, repeat the process above for the other volumes in your initial hit list. Sometimes those will have “Other editions” links to additional volumes that didn’t appear with the earlier hits.
  • If you manage to complete a set this way, consider sharing your success with other readers.  If you fill in my book suggestion form with the volumes you find,  I can list a neatly consolidated edition of all the volumes on The Online Books Page, and help other people avoid going through all the trouble you just did.  (Give the book’s title, URL for the first volume, and other information in the appropriate blanks, and then add URLs for subsequent volumes in the “Anything else we should know?” section of the form.)
  • Even if you only partially succeeded, if it’s a work you’re particularly interested in you can use my suggestion form to let me know what you’ve been able to find.  If I can’t easily find the other volumes myself, I can at least list what was found on my works-in-progress page. With luck, someone coming along later will find or digitize the remaining volumes, and I can list the set.

Similar techniques can be used for compiling runs of historic serials, which are also present in Google, and can be of great interest to readers.

If you find these suggestions useful, I hope you’ll help me compile sets of your favorite public domain works, so we can take advantage of all this wonderful old material that Google and others are digitizing.

Gloriana St. Clair: A brief appreciation

The organizer of today’s Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate women in technology, says that women need female role models they can emulate.  I’d add that men can use female role models as well.  There are at least two obvious reasons. First of all, we get a wider range of inspiration when our role models aren’t limited to half the population.  But also, people can be rather clueless about groups of people that they don’t normally see much, and that cluelessness can hold people back needlessly.

I don’t recall being consciously sexist when I entered grad school in computer science, but I wasn’t the most clueful person either.  When I noticed that there were only 4 women in our entering class of 36 (a ratio unfortunately not too far off the one I saw in undergraduate computer science), one of the first things I blurted out to one of those women was something like “gee, there’s going to be a lot of romantic competition for you four,” thinking about them more as potential dates than as fellow computer science colleagues.

I was fortunate, however, to have multiple female role models to learn from in my time as a graduate student.  Mary Shaw inspired me and many others to gain mastery over all kinds of challenges, from software engineering to bicycle trekking, through systematic and rigorous information gathering and analysis.  Jeannette Wing contributed some of the key technical  foundations to my own dissertation work (in her work with Barbara Liskov on type substitutability), and as a member of my dissertation committee repeatedly challenged me to write more clearly and logically, helping ensure that my ideas were sound and understandable.  And I don’t have the space here to enumerate, or express full thanks for, what I’ve learned from Mary Mark since I met her.

I also found another role model who I’d like to talk about today: Gloriana St. Clair, dean of libraries at Carnegie Mellon.  Unlike the other women I’ve mentioned above, she has no “technology” degree, but she’s played very important roles in bringing together technology and librarianship, to the benefit of both.

She has long emphasized the importance of digital technology to the future of libraries, featuring it prominently in strategic plans and library organization, and cultivating people with the skills and knowledge to design and improve the digital library.  (And not just her own staff; she encouraged me, while still in the computer science department, to get out to library conferences to find out more what people were doing and thinking, and even gave me a ride to a CNI forum in Washington, DC.)

She’s also helped educate technologists about the important roles that libraries and librarianship play in managing information.  While at Carnegie Mellon, I got involved in a computer science-led project to build a massive digital book collection, where much of the early thinking seemed to assume that the problem was largely a matter of committing enough technology and funding.  I was very happy to see Gloriana get involved and show how sound librarianship could make that project, as well as other digital library initiatives I’d dabbled in previously, much more effective, usable, and preservable than a purely engineering-oriented project would have been.

She’s also been unafraid to take a leap into a new area or initiative when called for.  Not content to settle for an MLS degree as a librarian, she went on to get a PhD in literature, and an MBA that she’s used both to help manage libraries and teach others about library management.  And when a commercial publisher bought the library science journal she edited and raised its prices, she organized a mass exodus of editors to a new, lower-cost journal founded under the auspices of SPARC.

My own career jump, from a computer science department at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh to a library at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, was made easier in a number of ways by her help and example.  Indeed, after I got more acclimated to library culture, I  gained a better appreciation of how well she accomplished one of the great functions of librarians: to build bridges and spread knowledge among a variety of different disciplines.  I also grew to appreciate the importance of building such bridges for librarianship itself.  Librarians can be another set of folks that many faculty and professionals don’t see much of, and that they can be correspondingly clueless about.  If libraries and their users are not to be held back needlessly, we need to build better bridges between each other.

I’m not alone in my appreciation for Gloriana.  Just a few weeks ago, the Association of College and Research Libraries named her Academic/Research Librarian of the Year.  To their award, I’d like to add my own personal and professional thanks.  And thanks as well to the many other women in technology who have, knowingly or not, given me knowledge, inspiration, encouragement, and some helpful clues.  I hope I can make a suitable contribution in turn.