I searched a small sample of ten pre-1923, public-domain books in Google Web Search in the last week, to find full-text versions, with the results below. These are all non-fiction titles, chosen more/less randomly, in subject fields of my interest — Medicine, botany, and history.


I did the searches in Google Web Search as detailed below — I looked at the first ten results, and recorded all occurrences of freely-available full-view versions for each title, with rank number. I’ve identified the GBS records by the library that scanned the book. For Internet Archive (IA), I’ve identified records by sponsor/contributor, and also noted whether the link goes to the book home page or the DjVu-formatted version of the book.

Both Google Books & Internet Archive records found:

• 1. American medical botany, Cummings and Hilliard, 1817
Google Web Search: American medical botany cummings
. . # 3 GBS-Library: Oxford Univ
. . # 7 GBS-Library: Harvard
. . # 9 IA:  Book Home Page – Sponsor & Contrib: NCSU

• 2. Portfolio of dermochromes, Jerome Kingsbury, 1913 (3 volumes)
Google Web Search: portfolio dermochromes kingsbury
. . # 1 GBS-Library: Harvard – Volume 1
. . # 5 IA:  Book Home Page – Volume 1 – Sponsor: IA; Contrib: U California
. . # 6 IA:  DjVu format – Volume 2 – Sponsor: IA; Contrib: U California

• 3. The Complete herbalist, or, The people their own physicians, Oliver Phelps Brown, 1870
Google Web Search: Complete herbalist, or, The people their own physicians
. . # 1 IA:  Book Home Page – Sponsor: Lyrasis, Sloan Fndtn; Contrib: Rutgers
. . # 2 IA:  Book Home Page – Sponsor: MSN; Contrib: U California
. . # 8 GBS-Library: Harvard

• 4. English and American tool builders, Joseph W. Roe, 1916
Google Web Search: english and american tool builders roe
. . # 1 GBS-Library: Harvard
. . # 4 IA:  Book Home Page – Sponsor: Boston Lib Consortium; Contrib: Northeastern U
. . # 5 IA:  DjVu format – Full Text of #4

• 5. Health service in industry, Irving Clark, 1922
Google Web Search: health service in industry clark
. . # 1 GBS-Library: California
. . # 2 IA:  Book Home Page – Sponsor: MSN; Contrib: U Toronto
. . # 3 IA:  Book Home Page – Sponsor: Google; Contrib: ?

• 6. History of medicine in its salient features, Walter Libby, 1922
Google Web Search: history of medicine in its salient features libby
. . # 1 GBS-Library: Harvard
. . # 4 IA:  DjVu record – Sponsor: MSN; Contrib: U California

Only Google Books records found, none from Internet Archive:

• 7. The Theory and practice of veterinary medicine, Austin H. Baker, Alexander Eger, 1911
Google Web Search: theory and practice of veterinary medicine baker
. . # 1 GBS-Library: Wisconsin

• 8. Atlas of diseases of the skin, Franz Mraček, ed. by Henry W. Stelwagon, 1899
Google Web Search: atlas diseases of the skin stelwagon
. . # 1 GBS-Library: Harvard – umQPAAAAYAAJ

• 9. How are you feeling now, Edwin Sabin, 1917
Google Web Search: how are you feeling now sabin
. . # 1 GBS-Library: California

Only in Google Books – Publisher Preview only – Google Book Search has in Full-view:

• 10. Beyond the Mississippi : from the great river to the great ocean, Albert Richardson, 1867
Google Web Search: beyond the mississippi richardson
. . # 3 GBS-Publisher: Preview of 2007 reprint, no full-view available. The title IS available when searched directly in Google Book Search ->>
>> Google Book Search search, limit to Full view: beyond the mississippi richardson
. . # 1 GBS-Library: Virginia


This is certainly not a larger enough sample to draw many conclusions, but I think it does show a few things:

  • There’s a lot of overlap between what’s in the two sources – The first 6 of the 10 books searched are in both Google Books (GBS) and Internet Archive (IA).
  • Not surprisingly, when there are titles in both sources, Google usually ranks GBS higher than IA (one exception: #3).
  • Libraries represented in GBS – Harvard predominates, with 6 of the 10 records — This fits my general Googling experience. Univ California is second with 2 records — This is a higher proportion than I’ve experienced.
  • IA sources – 3 of the 6 records have MSN as sponsor; of these, 2 are contributed by Univ California.
  • Links to Internet Archive are haphazard – In most cases there’s a link to the Book Home Page, as there should be, since it has a list of different formats available. In some cases, there’s also a link to the DjVu format, and in one case (#10), that’s the only link. Why does Google link to this format instead of others? Maybe it’s because DjVu is good for displaying pages with pictures. But the version of the DjVu format that Google links to is not the best one, as I’ve discussed previously.
  • In one case (#10), Google Web Search didn’t find any full-view versions, and Google Book Search did find one.

My purpose here was not to look at the proportion of all books that are in GBS or IA — That would take a larger sample, and more systematic randomizing. But I can report that I did find most of the titles I searched, which surprised me.

As I report in a separate article, it’s likely that there are  GBS or IA versions of other editions of many of these books, that could be found by searching directly in these sources.

There were no full-text versions in the Google Web Searches I did from any other source than GBS or IA. I was surprised at this, especially that Gutenberg.org did not appear in any of the search results.

Caveat: The results for the specific searches in Google Web Search will certainly change over time, so the study should be thought of as capturing a moment in time, not results set in stone!

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Comments are closed.