The Google Books project – like that of the Bibliothèque Nationale’s Gallica site – has revolutionized the way we find and access texts, particularly those with expired copyright and available in full-text format.
To make the most of this tool, the Advanced Book Search function is invaluable, so that you can sift through the books only available in limited preview. To the right of the search box on the Google Books site, click on “Advanced Book Search” and you’ll see many options to narrow your search. In my example, I searched for Guy de Maupassant’s Mademoiselle Fifi. Note that I’ve selected “Full view only” as well as the language, title, and author:
Then your results are filtered and relevant:
I chose to view the top result, which is an illustrated version and shows a full-color view of the cover page:
You can view the text online in several formats, seeing one or two pages at a time, or viewing thumbnails of dozens of pages at a time. In this example, I read it like a tangible book, two pages at a time:
If you’d like to print or save the file, to the top right of the window, you will see a clickable “Download” link. When you click it, you have the option of saving the text as a PDF:
Once you’ve downloaded the text, you can save parts of it as shorter PDF documents by using the “print” function and selecting only the pages you would like to use.
Another option I’m considering is to simply send the link to my students to have them read the book (or selection) onscreen. To find the stable URL, click on the “Link” button on the top right (near the “Download” button). That way, they can print it out if they’d like, but we can attempt to be as paperless as possible. This would be especially appropriate with longer texts. Of course, you can also always refer students to the library’s hard copy! But this way, you can all have free access to the same edition of the text, and students can choose the format they feel most comfortable with.