Google Books Spotlights Popular Passages, Builds Libraries

In yet another attempt to make sure I never get anything else done in my life, Google Books has released some new features, including the ability to create a library of books, the ability to embed portions of public-domain books on your own Web site, and the ability to track popular passages in books.

Google Books, of course, is at . You’ll need to have a Google Account to create a library, but you don’t need to have an account or log in to just search.

Strangely enough, you cannot make your library private. Any library you create will be viewable by other users. So remember that if you’re thinkin’ about getting weird. Anyway, you can add books to your library as you browse, or you can import a list of ISBNs.

I wanted to generate a quick list of ISBNs so I ran some random searches and came up with some ISBNs, which I stuffed into the import list (make sure the numbers don’t have any dashes — Google Books doesn’t like that.) Once you have a list, Google Books imports it and gives you a list of books (and reports on the ISBNs it couldn’t process.) You can add reviews and snippets to books in your library.

If you’re really proud of the books you have, you can share them. Google Books gives you an RSS feed that updates as you add new books to the library. You’ll also be able to search just books from your library or across all of Google Books.

If you’ve got some public domain books in your library, you can also embed parts of those books in your own Web site, blog, etc. For example, let’s take a longtime classic, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. (If you want to find a different public domain book, remember that Google Book’s advanced search allows you to search only for those books which give “full view” — which are usually public domain.)

Wander through the book and choose a clip and then use the new clip icon at the top of the viewer page (it has a little NEW! next to it.) you’ll get a crosshair which you can use to click-and-drag an area to quote. You can grab the part you’ve clipped as a graphic or as text, and send it to Blogger or Google Notebook. You can also embed it in a Web page as below.

Note that if your quote starts in the middle of a page, or runs over a couple of pages, you might have to do a little creative clipping. Also I noticed that clipping in Opera was much, much tougher than clipping in Firefox (I kept getting the wrong chunk of
text while clipping in Opera.)

While you’re looking at individual book pages, take a look at the new “popular passages” feature. Here you can see popular passages in books and the other books which have referred to them. Sometimes this is a bit odd (I found one item — apparently a publisher’s page — that apparently had several citations) but it was interesting to see what specific passages had been found particularly of interest out of an entire book.

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