Monday, December 07, 2009

Google Books Feature of Interest to Academics

I am not sure how new this is, but Google Books has a feature that might be of interest to academics in the humanities. As I will demonstrate, it is far from perfect but quite promising. You can now "clip" text from Google Books. So, let's say you're reading something and you quickly want to copy a quotation into your Word processor or Zotero. You just select your sentences and Google Books produces the selected part in plain text, even if the original is in Rashi script or German Fraktur - well, almost. It also gives you a URL for just that quotation, which you can either share as a link or embed, like this:

Here is the plain text that it produced based on the above:
חיקור רין הרמנ מן ז ל הנוגעים לזה הענין או אז יבין איך ראוי להתנהג נחקירות כאלה קראתי ס מסעות הים והנאני ולפי קוצר דעתי טוב מאד להעתיק סיפורים כאלה לל הק למען יראו בחורי עמנו כי לא חסרנו דבר וכי יש לאל יד לשוננו העניה והקצרה למצוא רי באר כל העשתונות כמו בשאר הלשונות ומטעם זה משבח אני גם ס עמורי שמים אשר בו הראה המחבר תקפו וגבורתו נחכמת התכונה אלא שהוא

As you can see, it's not perfect, but pretty darn good I'd say.

Google Books fares much worse with old German books. Here is an example:

This is the "transcription" into plain text:
ie ett nácete je t fyeran baf biefer ben feiner Samilie er ffcn iinb in ffetitltdje treten feilte ci junger ei l tvar

I also found that it occasionally put in Russian letters. There is definitely a pattern in the transcription, though it isn't completely regular. I'm sure the Googlers are working on this stuff.


Rebecca said...

How do you actually select on the page? Whenever I try, the "hand" appears so that I can scroll the pages - there doesn't seem to be any possibility of selecting. (I use a Macintosh).

Rebecca said...

Ah, now I'm looking at an old book, and the "clip" command appears. It can only be used with books whose copyright has expired.

Amos said...

That's an important caveat! Thanks, Rebecca.

Rebecca said...

thanks for alerting me to this feature by using a Hebrew texts - I hadn't realized that Google has been digitizing lots of old Hebrew books too - very useful for scholars who want to get our hands on old texts that our undergraduate institution employers feel no need to acquire.