02 August 2007 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 10 comments

I’ve made my opposition to Google’s plan to scan materials that are still covered by copyright and make them available on the Internet well known. I’ve ranted about it extensively here at length and won’t beat that poor dead horse any more.

At the same time, each time I’ve addressed this question, I’ve said that I think that the scanning of public domain works is not only appropriate but an admirable and worthy project that I wholeheartedly support, largely because nobody’s copyright rights are being trampled. After the past couple of weeks, I feel even more strongly about the subject.

When we decided to beef up our study of the retreat from Gettysburg to make it a more scholarly work than its original incarnation was, I spent a lot of time on the on-line book archive sites, searching for Union and Confederate regimental histories and published memoirs and the like. I own copies of virtually every published cavalry regimental history, but only a handful of infantry regimentals. Consequently, I hit the on-line archive sites hard.

I ended up downloading nearly 40 full books in the public domain in PDF form, burning them to a CD-ROM, and then bringing them into the office so I could print out the pertinent portions of them for use in the book. Wow….talk about some finds. Some of the material that I got that way is really remarkable stuff, in very rare regimental histories. I’m nearly done plugging this material into the manuscript, and let me tell you, it’s made a huge difference in the overall tactical detail and overall quality of the book. When it comes to the public domain materials, I am a true believer.

There are three different sites where one can find a lot of this good material in PDF form. First, of course, is the Google book search site. Enter your search command, and when the results come up, be sure to click on “full view”, which will provide access to the complete text of these public domain works.

I also made very extensive use of the Internet Archive site, which is really a portal that collects these scanned materials and provides access to them. The selection of available public domain materials on this site is much more extensive than Google’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it until I was well into the process. I ended up using the Internet Archive more than any other resource.

The third major resource is the one I used the least. It’s in part because, as a Mac user, I have a pathological hatred of all things Microsoft, which I view as the Evil Empire. Given a choice between using a Microsoft product and ANYTHING else, I will almost always use the alternative (I use Eudora for e-mail at work because I hate Outlook, and I’m a long-time Firefox user, as just two examples). It’s also because the site is buggy and doesn’t always work smoothly, and it won’t work at all on a Mac. However, the Microsoft live book search site is a useful tool (if you can get it to work), as it provides a portal to pretty much all of the digitized material available in various repositories around the Internet. It was my last resort, used to make certain I hadn’t missed anything on the other sites.

There are some other sites with much smaller databases, but you can pretty much access them by using these three sites. Having access to all of those public domain regimental histories and memoirs in one place that was relatively easy to use made the task of accumulating and incorporating this material into the manuscript quickly and painlessly possible. Thus, while I remain intransigent in my opposition to Google’s attacks on my copyright rights, I remain a true believer in the value of making public domain materials readily available for use by the consuming public that might not otherwise have access to those materials.

Scridb filter


  1. Sam Elliott
    Thu 02nd Aug 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Eric, I’m working on a Civil War biography, and I have found these sites and the books on them to be a goldmine. Plus, it is a substantial convenience to use their search features inside a book.

  2. Dave Powell
    Thu 02nd Aug 2007 at 5:17 pm

    And to think I once priced out the UMI microfiche Am Civil War Collection of titles, which is perhaps the single largest collection of Civil War regimentals and personal narratives in existance – it runs to 5000 fiche and was -at the time – $70,000. Now virtually all of those titles can be found online at one of these sites. Remarkable.

    Now all I need is someone to put the Natl tribune up. rat bastards!!

    Dave Powell

  3. Thu 02nd Aug 2007 at 6:26 pm


    LOL. I feel your pain, brother. ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Fri 03rd Aug 2007 at 12:54 am

    LOL, Eric, you should mention that when you received the last hard copy volume of the ORs, the $50 CD came out. You spent how much on the books?



  5. Dave Powell
    Fri 03rd Aug 2007 at 6:56 am

    $95 a month for eternity…

    Or about $3000 dollars. I have them too.

    Howeva – I still use the hard copies a lot. Scratch that – all the time. Much easier than a CD.

    Besides, these days several places have the OR and ORN online. I have the Cornell site bookmarked.

    That digital library, accessible from anywhere, stuff that I always read about in SF novels is really coming true…

    Dave Powell

  6. Dave
    Sun 05th Aug 2007 at 7:38 pm

    I was wondering if you could give us your opinion on the Dimitri Rotov letter to CEO of the Weider history group. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Military History, America’s Civil war and Civil War Times Illustrated.

  7. Jeff
    Sun 05th Aug 2007 at 7:39 pm

    I was wondering if you could give us your opinion on the Dimitri Rotov letter to CEO of the Weider history group. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Military History, America’s Civil war and Civil War Times Illustrated.

  8. Sun 05th Aug 2007 at 9:19 pm


    I’m wondering why you felt it necessary to post the same comment twice, using two different names and two different e-mail addresses. The IP address, however, is identical.

    That leads me to believe you’re a flame baiter, so I choose not to respond to you.


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