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Google Opens Mobile Access to Public-Domain Books

Via a Google press release, word that visiting books.google.com/m provides mobile access to 1.5 million public-domain books from within Google Book Search:

Today, we’re making it possible for anyone with an Android or an iPhone to find and read more than 1.5 million public domain books in the US (more than half a million outside the US) in the Google Book Search index for free on their mobile phone, from anywhere with Internet access. It’s possible for a commuter on a passenger train to read classics like Pride and Prejudice right along with lesser known works like Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, or for a student in India to read Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” on her iPhone, all via a simple website accessible from your mobile phone.

So far, the mobile edition only offers browser-based access (Web-style scrolling, no offline access, no remember-my-place), but an interesting addition to the emerging and important mobile reading space. Screenshot below (or click here if you can’t see the screenshot).

gbs-iphone.jpg

Google will be at next week’s TOC Conference talking about the past, present and future of GBS.

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  • bowerbird

    i’m still very unhappy with google’s content grab
    in the settlement with the author/publishers, and
    i am not going to go away quietly on that matter…

    but this offering is very good. extremely good.
    the interface is quite nice… it would, of course,
    be better if you could download these e-books,
    so you didn’t _have_ to be constantly connected.

    but google’s assumption about most of its stuff
    is that we will indeed be constantly connected, so
    it’s no surprise to see that’s the ground-rule here.

    it was great to see google is serving digital text,
    rather than scans, since text is a lot more nimble.
    however, a tap on a paragraph brings up the scan
    of that paragraph, which is nice. and another tap
    restores the text. so if you want to verify the o.c.r.,
    it’s simple to do. as i said above, this is nicely done.

    curiously, in the one book i checked (roughing it),
    the text was extremely accurate as well, which is
    a pleasant discovery. i found only one o.c.r. error
    – “firty” for “fifty”, due to a blotch on the page…

    the text also contained em-dashes, which for some
    reason have troubled both google and archive.org.
    they often showed up missing in action in the o.c.r.
    i’ve had to scream long and hard to get those fixed.
    but it seems to have worked.

    this quality text is _not_ typical of google’s raw o.c.r.,
    so they’ve evidently run some clean-up routines on it.
    i’m curious to see if they share this cleaned-up text
    with their library partners, or keep it to themselves…
    (no, the libraries weren’t smart enough to ask for it,
    as far as i know, let alone write it into the contracts.)

    -bowerbird

  • Peter McKie

    A cool feature of the app is that it will pull up an image of the original book page. Here’s an example: The first paragraph in “The History of the Donner Party” starts with a drop-cap “T” for the word “Three.” The T in the original book was stylized, so Google’s OCR software couldn’t recognize it–the paragraph starts off with “hree.”But click the screen and Google displays the paragraph from the original book, overwrought “T” and all.