When you can’t use our books in person, you can sometimes connect online. Every Buffalo researcher should get to know these online book sites.
We LIVE at Google Books. For historical researchers, Google Books is the most important part of the Google empire. For several years, Google has partnered with several major libraries, including Harvard, Cornell, and the New York Public Library, to digitize millions of books and periodicals. The results are full-text searchable for names of individuals, places, specific phrases, businesses, organizations, events, anything you’d look for the regular Google home page. Fortunately for us, many of the participating libraries happened to collect books on Buffalo.
Your search results will have 4 levels of access:
1. Full text: the entire book is online
2. Preview: you can read multi-page excerpts but not the entire book
3. Snippet: you see only the paragraph or sentence containing your search term(s)
4. No preview: the book is not online, usually because the sole surviving copies are owned by one of the many libraries (like us) who are not part of the Google Books project.
Other useful features: you can bookmark your finds in a feature called My Library and share your lists. You can download entire free books in PDF and read them offline. Because Google is a business, you can also purchase newly released e-books for your e-reader.
Archive.org is the not-for-profit alternative to Google Books. It presently has 8.8 million volumes online and all are free and full text. Their library partners include the Library of Congress, the University of Toronto, and Columbia University.
To search it, click on the magnifying glass icon in the black navigation band across the top of your screen. Archive.org lags behind Google Books in its full text searchability for a specific name, phrase, or term. However, anyone can upload a text to Archive.org. Download options include formats designed for screen-readers used by people with vision loss.
HathiTrust is a consortium of a hundred academic and research libraries around the world who are digitizing books. It presently has 13.8 million volumes online. About 40% are available for free in full text. To download a book that is still protected by copyright, you have to be affiliated with a member institution. At present, the closest participating institution is the University of Rochester.
Like Google Books, HathiTtrust offers you the option of searching the full-text of everything for a name or phrase. You can create collections (bookmark your finds) and share them. You can also limit your search to books that are online in full text.
The Gutenberg Project is the grand-daddy of all online book sites, founded in 1971 before any of us had ever heard the words Internet, Browser, or Digitize. It presently offers over 50,000 books, all of which are online for free in full text with several downloading options. Gutenberg is full-text searchable, as well as browsable by author, title, and subject. Unfortunately, the Buffalo content here is minimal.
FRANK, our online catalog
Naturally, we cannot omit our largest in-house digital project, our online catalog. It lists over 27,000 distinct books, manuscripts & microfilms in the Research Library collection. We are continually cataloging new and old stuff. When we learn about free online versions of works that we own in hard copy, we build links into the bibliographic record. Try searching for a person, place, thing, business, church, organization, event, and maybe one of your results will lead you to a full-text, online version.
This article was first featured in the Spring 2016 issue of “The Album,” the newsletter of the Buffalo History Museum.