Saturday, August 22, 2009

How To Search Your Paper Books As Though They Were Electronic Documents


One of the great things about electronic books is that you can search them. Now there is a way to search your paper books.

Google has been scanning all of the books in the world.
Here is what you do:

  1. It offers a great service. Go to http://books.google.com/
  2. Create an account with Google, if you don't already have one
  3. Search for a book you have read or own
  4. When you find it, click "Add to my library"
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for as many books as you like.

Now, to search for a phrase in your books, click "My Library" at the top right. You will be presented with a search box, one of the options of which is "search this user's library." Search that and it will show you all the hits in all of your books for that phrase, with the page number.

For example, I searched my library for "cortex" and it found a hit in Hawkins's book On Intelligence:

On intelligence

by Jeff Hawkins, Sandra Blakeslee - Medical - 2004 - 261 pages - No preview available
Page 120
thanks to the incredibly large capacity of your cortex for remembering patterns.
If there are consistent patterns among the inputs flowing into your brain, ...



Now I can just pull the book of the shelf and go to page 120.

Many people I talk to dismiss Google Books because you can't look at every page. But this is a great use for it. You don't need to be able to see every page because you have the books you're searching through on your own shelf.

I got this idea from a comment on an intriguing blog post on how to actually scan your books and then glue them back to together.

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