Time for a rant. It’s been a while since the last one.

Google Book Search can be an extremely valuable resource. However, its usefulness can be severely limited by a practice that I REALLY don’t understand. More on that in a moment.

I remain as vehemently opposed to the concept of Google scanning works that are still covered by copyright as I have ever been. The flagrant disregard of intellectual property rights offends me deeply, and I will never support that aspect of the Google problem.

At the same time, the database of public domain materials is tremendously useful. I’ve made very extensive use of it, and I appreciate it. However, there is an aspect of the program that I just don’t get. There are a number of scanned works that I’ve encountered that can be looked at, but you can’t print them out, and you also cannot download them to your computer. They’re all in the public domain, so I cannot begin to understand what the rationale might be for such a moronic practice. Obviously, the library that owns the book has placed this idiotic restriction on the use of the material, and it infuriates me to no end. Where the book is in the public domain, there simply is NO justification for such an idiotic policy.

It’s akin to dangling a bottle of whiskey in front of an alcoholic and then expecting that alcoholic to not take a drink from that bottle. There is no justification for teasing a researcher like that. It leaves the work almost useless, and I’ve had just about enough of it.

Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get that off my chest.

Scridb filter


  1. jgilot
    Mon 19th May 2008 at 10:04 pm


    It would be a bit much of a pain to try and do with entire books, but if there were certain pages that you needed that you weren’t able to print, you could take screenshots of the page, blow them up a bit on Microsoft Word and print them out. Just a thought…


  2. dan
    Mon 19th May 2008 at 10:56 pm

    You have to switch off the “no GoogleBooks Print” feature.

  3. PHW
    Mon 19th May 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Question: Are you opposed to the Amazon.com preview where they often will display a few pages of text?

    I find that a great help in determining whether or not I will buy a particular book.

  4. Mon 19th May 2008 at 11:36 pm


    You know, I’m a bit undecided about that Amazon feature. If you keep viewing enough, you could literally view (and print) an entire book. The publisher and author (and Amazon, I might add) would get zip for it. Even just viewing a few pages, which a researcher might want for a source or two, is possible. There have been many, many times when I’ve bought an entire book just for one little source in it.
    I think Amazon should permit the viewing of, say, only five random pages – period – in copyrighted books. There’s a trick to being able to do a “search” in such a book on Amazon, and one you find what you’re looking for, you’re done. Nobody gets paid.

  5. Mon 19th May 2008 at 11:39 pm


    Eric and I have tried to do that – take screenshots of the page. For some reason, it doesn’t work. Apparently because the pages show up in a subwindow you can’t capture them.
    Most books you can download and print out, but these ones that you can’t are really frustrating. In some cases I’ve been able to convert pages to plain text, then copy and paste them into MS Word – but it’s a royal, time consuming pain.

  6. Tue 20th May 2008 at 8:42 am

    I’d have to see the actual “artifacts” (that’s one of those Knowledge Management words) you are looking at, but do they may have digital rights management invoked. We’ve had to do that with a lot of public domain government documents to comply with several regulations. Seems the government is OK with something like a military report from the field, once declassified, out on the web. What they don’t want is that same document to get “edited” and re-posted on the web. In their perspective, that’s how things conspiracy theories get started. And in this day and age, all you need is someone handy with the various editing tools, and you have an instant Roswell.

  7. Tue 20th May 2008 at 9:36 am

    Could be, Cas – perhaps there’s a “digital” ownership or rights, separate from the original document or book itself. Seems weird that a public domain book in a particular library becomes a different entity once it’s digitalized. The library can restrict duplication of it. Therefore, the original book and its digital image are two distinct entities and carry different restrictions.

  8. Chuck
    Tue 20th May 2008 at 10:58 am

    Devil’s Advocate………
    If someone is doing research and they use your book for a source, and footnote it, what is wrong with that?
    I am with you on not putting entire books on the web if they have copyright, but it sounds like you don’t want anyone to source your material at all unless they actually buy the book.
    What if I copy a page out of your book for it’s source in a research project at the library? As long as I credit where the source came from, that’s OK right? I don’t really need to buy the book, do I?


  9. Tue 20th May 2008 at 11:36 am

    JD, it is not so much ownership in the (can I say this on a lawyer’s blog?) legal sense, but in the physical sense. The originator doesn’t mind distribution, just doesn’t want it altered from the original. Technology has sort of outpaced us primates. In the old analog days, I couldn’t really change the text in your book. White out and an Olivetti typewriter would only go so far.

    Now days if I can get a copy of your book in digital format (PDF, Word, or even pure digital image), I can make it look like Farnsworth charged into the middle of Pickett’s Division on July 3. Won’t hold up in court, but would be enough to annoy the average person. Might even sell some newspapers.

    Basically some sort of tamper protection of the artifact, or validation of authenticity. Some trade texts call it a form of non-repudiation, but I think that a misuse of the term. Just unfortunately serves to hinder the use of a public resource. Another example of the miscreants making life hard on us honest folks.

  10. Valerie Protopapas
    Tue 20th May 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I use the Amazon function and appreciate it as it keeps me from buying books that don’t have the information I seek even if they cover the period and/or the area which MIGHT include the subject matter.

    I suppose that one could somehow spend hours “downloading” a book by virtue of that very useful tool, but the HOURS it would take to do that would probably cost more than buying the book used. I’ve bought desired books for 99¢. I’m not concerned that they are “brand new” as long as they are legible and I don’t have to glue the spine back on. I would certainly never waste my time trying to “craft” a book from individual pages. The effort of finding how to do so (you can only go so far “turning pages” before you are prevented from going further) would be more ‘expensive’ in time and effort than buying the book at full price!

    Of course, there are always those who for the sake of some twisted rationalization would rather work harder doing something illegal or immoral than to do something right – politics is full of such folks!

  11. Tue 20th May 2008 at 11:18 pm


    You certainly have a point. I guess my point was that even with a random search feature, it “virtually” puts an entire copyrighted book out there on the web. Just rubs me wrong, I guess – as it does Eric and others. But no, there’s certainly nothing wrong with quoting from a book no matter how it’s obtained. You’re right. I guess I didn’t make my point very well.

    LOL Cas, and you have a great point as well. Hhmm, it seems as though someone HAS recently changed the focus of Farnsworth’s Charge, eh? 🙂 Your logic makes a great deal of sense, though. I guess if you personalize it – say, you own a public domain book, perhaps a rare one – any use of it by others would be under your control. Same with a library or other repository. Can’t deny them the rights you might like to have yourself.

    Still doesn’t change the fact that it’s annoying 🙂


  12. Keith Yoder
    Wed 21st May 2008 at 10:47 pm

    It is true that it takes time and effort but Amazon’s search features actually do leave the entire book available to the determined user – they have a rather large loophole in the function that limits the number of pages one can preview. I know this because I was able to “preview” (and save and print out) virtually an entire book I was interested in with only a couple hours work (we are talking 100+ pages). I have only done this only once as it seemed a bit unethical but I was rather caught up with effort and was curious if I could do it.

  13. Thu 22nd May 2008 at 8:46 am

    Keith, I’m not familiar with what that practice is called when applied to Amazon. But when used through Google, its known as “Google-driving,” in the same sense of locating unsecured wireless networks is called “wardriving.”

    I get to work with a lot of Knowledge Management types in my trade. Even attended many seminars on the topic. If you listen close, the approach to KM is often sold with the same or similar catch phrases as used by Marxists! Information belongs to everyone…. Each person should have access to the material they need….All should freely and willingly contribute the fruits of their labor….. Argg!

    I once interrupted a briefer to pose this question. If I’m a junior level employee, but devise some wonderful technique that I’ve mastered, why should I share that mastery with the senior level employees? After all, my value to the company is measured in marketable skills and tenure. If I don’t have the later, I must sell the former.

  14. Karl
    Thu 22nd May 2008 at 12:57 pm

    I’m not sure if screenshots is the same as what I am going to say but try this.

    Hit print screen.

    Then go and open paint.
    Select edit and then paste.
    Then, use the cutting tool (dotted box) and select the portion of the page you want to have and select file and then New.
    Don’t save the old document.
    Then paste again in the new doc.
    Then hit file and print and there you have it.
    You can resize what you print by changing to landscape and margins etc.

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