It’s been some time since I last had a look at the “My Library” service in Google Books, but with the announcement of Google eBooks store (currently US only, except for out-of-copyright free downloads) I popped over to my Google Books account to see whether anything else had changed…
One of the little known (I think?) features of Google Books is the “My Library” personalisation which allows you to create a collection of books and search over them. Searching your library finds all the books in your library collection that contain the search phrase; if a preview of the book is available returns deep links into the book to the point(s) at which the search terms appear:
I’ve previously commented on the My Library aspect of Google Books in the context of its possible use by libraries for providing a full-text search option over books in their collection (e.g. Complementing the OPAC With a Full Text Search Book Catalogue where I describe the use of the service by Wiltshire Heritage Library (example) and the Penn State University Press booksearch (example)).
(At the moment I don’t think you can get statistics back on the searches carried out on a My Library profile, though Google books can do stats for publishers e.g. Google Books for Publishers).
Anyway – one of the problems I originally had with My Library was that you could only maintain a single collection. But it seems that it’s now possible to create separate collections by tagging books in your Library onto “shelves”:
(Shelves appeared at the start of 2010, it seems: Updated Books Home Page and My Library.)
So what immediately comes to mind is that if you’re running several courses, you could add the books used in the course to a My Library shelf, and then publish a link to a search context for that shelf to give a full text searchable version of the books on the list (assuming they’ve been scanned by the Goog, of course). Where previews are available, deep links into books will be available as part of the search results.
I haven’t really populated any shelves yet, but here’s the idea:
I haven’t explored the Book Search Data API yet, bit it does seem to offer the ability to search over a particular user’s public library, as well as retrieve lists of books from the library. API options also exist for adding books to a library, though the API seems to only support adding labels, rather than updating shelves (or maybe legacy handlers map labelled books onto shelves?). With a bit of digging, it might be possible to find a route to automate the creation of a library shelf from a list of books. (Hmmm, maybe I should try this with the OU Set books list?!;-)
Google Books shelves thus seem to provide a way of creating different lists of books within a single user library, although I’m not sure if there is a limit on the number of books contained within a shelf, or in the library as a whole. Another nice feature is that it’s possible to select a shelf based filter to just display books from a similar shelf (click on the label in the left-hand sidebar to filter by shelf); this search facet also seems to be passed through to a bookmarkable URL for the filtered search via the as_coll argument (I think?). (Which is to say: you can share a link for a search within a particular shelf in a particular user’s library.)
I’m not sure if Google Books is available through Google Apps for Education, but it could be a useful component of a full text book search context around books on a reading list?
PS As Google Scholar appears to be improving its coverage, it strikes me that the Goog still doesn’t offer a Google service for building searchable reference lists, although it does let you customise the addition of links that will bookmark a reference to a service for you:
Here’s how the links are displayed:
Given you can build weblink search contexts using Google custom search engines, full text book search contexts using the Books My Library service, search over content from bundled feeds in Google Reader and even run things like video search by user on Youtube*, the Goog must surely be looking to offer a collection building and searching over service for Google Scholar? So I wonder… could Google end up taking over a service like CiteULike or Mendeley to complement and bootstrap personalisation of their Google Scholar offering? Or would they just build their own (cut down) version of these services?
* Hmm… I wonder if there’s a Youtube API switch that lets you search playlists? It’s definitely possible to get a playlist feed out…
PPS the Goog is also lacking a way of exposing all these personal search contexts to a logged in user through the same interface. If it were down to me, I’d start to expose them in the left hand sidebar of Google websearch, so I’m guessing this will be a labs/experimental service in the new year, if it isn’t already so…