The Google Books project is an exciting new chapter in the world’s digitization of printed materials together with the Gutenberg project. I have blogged at Frog in a Well – Korea about some old English-language works on Korea that are available for download in text form from the latter. On my own weblog I have expressed some frustration with the limits imposed by Google Books on the viewing of works which are not protected by copyright here.
There has been a recent piece of news about the Google Books project which was announced on the Google Books own weblog here at the end of August. Many books that can be found on Google Books, which are out of copyright (or rather, which Google has decided to treat in that manner), can now be completely downloaded in PDF format.
Some notes about this feature:
1) The downloaded work is an image PDF, usually 1-15MB in size. The text metadata for each book is not in the downloaded document. This means you cannot search for text within the document once it is downloaded, but must return to Google Books in order to search the contents.
2) Some books which a) are no longer protected by copyright b) Google recognizes as no longer being protected by allowing you to browse an unlimited number of pages from the work are strangely not available for download. For example, Miyakawa, Masuji’s My Life in Japan, published in the United States in 1907 can be fully viewed online and is not protected by copyright, cannot be downloaded as of today. The same goes for Bushido, the Soul of Japan: An Exposition of Japanese Thought by Inazô Nitobe published in 1905 (the 10th edition)
3) Many of the old books, especially those which cannot be downloaded despite their lack of copyright coverage, have huge “Image Not Available” error messages where the pages should be. Strangely, you can still search the text metadata for these books and return results. Clicking on the search result pages, however, will simply show “Image Not Available.” Other books have some pages missing but some showing.
4) As I have discussed elsewhere, some books which cannot possibly be covered by copyright are only shown in “snippet mode” and in some cases, searching their contents returns completely unexplainable and mistaken results. For example, the 1910 Highways and Homes of Japan by lady Kate Lawson is bizarrely shown only in snippet mode and as this snapshot shows, searching for “Japan” within the book gives completely wrong results.
5. The page images for tables of contents are in many cases hyperlinked. You can click directly on chapter titles in the table of contents to jump to that chapter.
How to search for books related to Japan that are out of copyright:
The easiest way is to search for something specific on the Google Books web site. However, that will return mostly results that are still protected by copyright. See this excellent summary of copyright protection at Cornell for how to determine roughly if something is protected that was published in the United States. All things published in the United States before 1923, regardless, are now in the public domain, no exceptions. There is no reason Google should restrict access to those materials insofar as it assumes visitors are viewing the content in the United States (its website says as much in its warning to those outside the US).
IN TITLE – If you want to search for something in the title, either use the “Advanced Search” link or simply precede your search with “intitle:” For example: intitle:Japan or intitle:”Jinrikisha Days in Japan”
BY DATE – To restrict yourself to the period when all books are in the public domain, you can specify a date year range using “date:” So for example: date:1800-1922. You can also specifi “Full view books” in the advanced search page to see only results in books that can be fully viewed.
So searching for books with Japan in the title, published from 1800-1922 can be found by entering: intitle:Japan date:1800-1922
Some examples of books that can be downloaded, found merely through searching for Japan in the title, some of which you might recognize:
Problems of the Far East: Japan, Korea, China
By George Nathaniel Curzon 1894