My desire to accumulate U.S. history books and biographies has led me to some interesting sites. If you have ever done a Google search for “free etext” you probably know about gutenberg.org, etext.virginia.edu, arthursclassicnovels.com and other URL’s. Want to find free etext books in more sites? What many do not know is the availability of the three best sites that allow you to download thousands of books in PDF format and a variety of other formats. The three sites are http://www.archive.org/advancedsearch.php, http://manybooks.net/ and http://books.google.com/advanced_book_search?.
Remember, most of these books were generally written long before the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration so you will not find Gone With The Wind or most of the other popular twentieth century writings.
My download files are generally made in txt and PDF format. If you are going to use PDF format you will need to download Acrobat Reader 8.0 from adobe.com (it is free). PDF format is my personal preference because the entire book is digitized, including the cover. You have an image of the book just as it appears on the shelf. The problems with PDF format are (1) you have to learn how to use Acrobat Reader well and (2) you have to possess something better than a dial-up modem system to make most of the downloads. Most of these books are five to eighty-five megabits and it takes some time to download them.
The following details each site and explains what each provides and explains how to search and download your choices.
This site appears to be sponsored by Microsoft Corporation in cooperation with the University of California. There may be many more businesses and universities involved but these are the ones that I have noticed.
There are three primary categories to search in this site and then some minor ones. I will explain the three primary categories and allow you to pursue the others on your own if they are needed. The first category is “any field”. In this category you can put any word or phrase that you want.
The second category is “title”. You must be sure to spell the title correctly and state the title as published. The search will produce a broad list of books sometimes, many of which were not exactly what you were looking for. The third category is the search for the “author”. This is the one that I prefer but that is just my preference. Again watch your spelling.
After you select your book, there will be some choices on the left of the screen where you can select one of the various formats available. Click on one of these. If you click “PDF” an Acrobat Reader screen will appear and in the bottom left of the screen will be a download progress indicator. When the download is complete, look at the tool bar above the book cover and click on the small disk icon to the right of the printer icon. A screen will appear that allows you to select your directory location. Make the selection and save the book to your hard drive.
I need to add one last note about archive.org. This site has old movie films, music recordings and free etext. Pay close attention to the selection you make or you will end up listening to some concert of a rock band from the sixties.
This site has a couple of features, which might be useful to a book addict. The books can all be downloaded in a very wide variety of formats. These are not scanned books but are regenerated text, which is not like having the original, but can save your sight if you do not want to deal with print generated in the nineteenth century.
Manybooks.net has three search capabilities that can be used: author, title and category (i.e. history, cooking, etc.). Click on anyone of the three and you will see an alphabetical listing of what is available in anyone of the three capabilities. If you prefer there is a search field in the upper right corner that will search on either author or title and is faster.
Downloading from manybooks.net is easy. First you need to select the format you need. They have a long list to choose from. If you have a need for an unusual format, this is the place to download your book. Click on “download” after you make your format selection. A screen will appear that allows both a Windows download and a Mac download. I never use Mac so you Mac users will have to be on your own at this point. The Windows download ask you to click on the specific URL for the book requested. An Acrobat Reader screen will appear if you chose the PDF format. The book cover and an index of the first few chapters will appear. In the tool bar just above the book cover there is small disk icon, the second from the left next to the printer icon. Click on the icon and a screen appears that permits you to select your directory for downloading the book.
This site consists of books that have been digitized from libraries all over the country. Google has a very wide selection of books to choose from. When a book is downloaded you have multiple format choices to choose from.
There are basically three main types of searches made on this site. There are others but you will find that most of your searches are focused on these three methods. The first is the “author” search. Enter the full name that is available to you, such as John S C Abbott for example. The second is a title search that appears just above the “author” search. Enter the title such as “Moby Dick”. You can enter part of the title but you have to be prepared for the list of books that the search will detect. The third search is the capability to search within the book for certain words, phrases or parts of a phrase. This search can be for (1) all the words, (2) exact phrase, (3) at least one of the words or (4) without the words. A word search can be used in conjunction with the title or author search (i.e. “Moby Dick” and whale).
The Google book search includes both digitized copies of books, previews of books and information about books available for sale. If you want the search to include only the free etext, complete copies of the book, be sure and check the “Full View” circle before you begin each search. Not checking the “Full View” circle will cause you to review a long list of books not available for download.
Downloading a book from Google is easy if you are familiar with a computer. When you locate the book that you want to download there will be an entry at top-right of the book such as “download PDF-XXM”. You are being told in advance how large the file is so you can determine if you wish to download. Click on the word download and a download screen will appear if you have Windows and your preferences are set. Click on “save to disk” and “ok” and the download will begin. You will then be required by Windows to direct your downloaded file to a specific directory. That choice is yours.
A few last thoughts about downloading and saving books
I have downloaded about seven hundred books in PDF format over the last two years. This format requires a high volume of disk space. For this reason I have organized my books into directories that enable me to locate the book I want and then transfer it to a CD. A CD will hold seven hundred meg but the PDF format will use that much storage space very quickly.
I have emphasized the use of Acrobat Reader here. I have no particular affinity for the Adobe Company but I have found this software to be excellent when trying to find particular text or phrases in a book, viewing the book (font size is important to us old folks) and “gee whiz, it’s free”. Good luck on your downloads and I hope you find that rare book you have been looking for.