Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Google Books At The End Of Tether

So what do y'all think about Google Books?

I'm finding it moderately useful. I like the idea of grabbing those books in the no-mans-land of "out-of-print". You can't get them in the bookstores and you can't get them on Gutenberg, or other copyright-free sites. But I haven't actually managed to get to such a position yet. I believe the site is limited at the moment. But it is still works excellently for the books that ARE scanned. Of course if you want to cut and paste to fluff up some thin blog posts or school assignments, you'll have to try some OCR software I guess.

But otherwise, fine so far.

Example: So I am searching for a copy of H.G. Wells remarkably pessimistic final work, "Mind At The End Of Its Tether", either on-line or in print. This is the one Colin Wilson analyses in the "The Outsider" (remember when that was THE book? I was ten or so.) This is way far the least popular of Wells' work.


Why do I want it? Hey, because it is unpopular of course! And to complement my Schopenhauer reading of course. Wells was not a happy person at this time, his diabetes was literally killing him, the Second World War was killing everyone else...

"In the face of our universal inadequacy . . . man must go steeply up or down and the odds seem to be all in favor of his going down and out. If he goes up, then so great is the adaptation demanded of him that he must cease to be a man. Ordinary man is at the end of his tether."

Depressing? Well, one could answer with Eliot's:

'There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious.
But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there’s only the trying.
The rest is not our business.'

and say, hey we are talking the bookends of WWII here, lots of people felt useless and inadequate at that time. It was the mid-Twentieth Century, that cataclysmic period of the failure of belief systems...



Nope, there is no copy of it at Gutenberg, though lots of Wells's other stuff.

But, woo-hoo, Google Books finds several available editions, including a recent one - edited by Wilson! - that comes witn another late work, "The Happy Turning" (includes an interview with Jesus in Heaven). However they are not scanned, and therefore unavailable for on-line reading. There is only a snippet preview of some older edition which shows nothing...

Sour face. :-(

I could go to Amazon and buy it I guess, or...

...or get Google Books to do a library search for me! Bingo (after I re-enter my location), up comes the National Library of Singapore, which has a copy on the shelf. Hey, I can pay my membership (Public Library NOT Free!!!!!!!!), borrow myself their copy, scan it at work, it's only 64 pages, and read it on my iPhone PDF reader!


Then after absorbing all that uplifting stuff, I'll be feeling so great I'll have go looking for some nice Japanese girls to help me slit my wrists!

So cute!



Indiana said...

I am surprised that you would not want an actual paper version to add to your ever growing library.

expat@large said...

Indy: well if it was a really significant text I usually would, but this one comes under the heading of "for interest's sake only." That's why I was looking for it at Gutenberg first. I'd be happy to buy it if I saw it in a second-hand shop, as it's obviously a rarity. But to send overseas for it would seem pretentious. (Pretentious! Moi?)

Dick Headley said...

I haven't tried google books.

Poor H.G.Wells. He could have used those helpful Japanese girls I reckon.

Creepy said...

That commercial is from "Tokyo Gore Police", an AWESOME movie! It's filled with amusing bits like that. Not to mention tons and tons of splatter.

expat@large said...

Creepy: was it you who linked to TGP recently? That's where I saw the ad.

Free Podcast

Related Posts with Thumbnails