I went to Google Books and Open Library. They are both a bit frustrating. I had to go through the “about us” section on both sites to figure out how to read the scans online. After several attempts to find less meaty books, I pulled Great Expectations up on both sites. I wanted to see if I could compare their representations of popular fiction rather than something we all know. I searched for books that have intense fan followings in the geek set and should be available: Dune, The Hobbit, The Eye of the World, Dragonflight, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. None were available to read online from Open Library, and Dragonflight was not found on Google Books either. Although searching for Dune on Open Library was really interesting – a lot of French works came up. I did find some information on Open Library about some of the books, but none had anything available to read online.
The quality of the scans on Google Books and Open Library was quite different, but some of that is a function of the editions I chose. The Open Library version looks like someone photographed the pages of an edition from the 1960’s and uploaded the photos. The letters are blotchy, and the centering changes between pages, making it challenging to read on a screen. Google Books’ quality is much better, with everything justified and centered in the viewing screen. Yet the viewing area is much smaller because there’s an advertisement sidebar to purchase the book you’re reading, complete with a direct link to Amazon.com. What, then, is Google’s purpose with this site? Are they offering digital books online for people to read or are they shilling for Amazon?
In all honesty, I really was so irritated by both sites I doubt I would have managed to read anything on either site. The local public library is much easier. There I can find exactly what I’m looking for quickly and easily, without having to sift through eighteenth century manuscripts on Algeria. I do not have to decide if Dune is Science Fiction or Fantasy, and I can look it up in the library catalog under Frank Herbert. I am able to search by author on both sites, in the advance search section. I may be in the minority, but I would much rather go to the library or the bookstore to pick up a copy of the book. I don’t like reading off of a screen. (Sometimes the assigned readings for this class are really challenging, simply because I end up with a headache halfway through, or I keep losing my place as I try to take notes, or even if something distracts me in the middle of the page.) I can stuff a standard paperback into my jacket pocket, and I don’t have to worry about my $7.95 copy of Dune being stolen – which is a concern with a Kindle. This isn’t even considering what we discussed last week – that when we purchase eBooks they can be deleted from our devices by the seller. I’d rather just keep adding shelves to my office walls and enjoying a simple, physical, paper book.