Friday, June 19, 2009

Google Books: Actually Useful

I've been finishing up my revised edition of Tolkien's Beowulf and the Critics and have cleaning up the section where I identify of all the "voices" in Tolkien's "Babel of Voices," where he presents the history of Beowulf criticism.

In doing all the necessary but tedious i-dotting and t-crossing, I've found Google Books to be remarkably helpful for nineteenth-century Beowulf scholarship. They have full text of a lot of important but hard-to-find books (hard to find because Interlibrary Loan isn't often willing to send books published in 1840), and the interface and mark-up is much better than I remember it being.

I'm still not a fan of Google Scholar, which seems incredibly random in its selection of material, but Google Books seems to be not only a copyright grab but also a useful resource.


Jason Fisher said...

I’ve always appreciated Google Books for this very reason, and they’ve been steadily improving the user interface over the last couple of years. Also, you can usually download PDFs of those old, hard-to-find books. I carry around a flash drive with Joseph Wright’s and Henry Sweet’s primers, Skeat’s etymological dictionary, Bosworth/Toller — among many other things. Also: for what you can’t find on Google Books, try for plenty of other old books.

Sobriquet Magazine said...

I, too, adore what Google Books offers. I cannot count the times I have been able to track down information that I'd not been able to locate through more traditional, land-based venues. Google Scholar, as you seem to imply, has been considerably less helpful, especially when compared with, say, JStor.

Great blog you've got here!