[Web4lib] Enhanced E-book Service

Tim Spalding tim at librarything.com
Wed Oct 13 19:59:47 EDT 2010

> Yes, you can search for specific text within a book.  However, if you are not at an institution that has rights to the item, you can just see where your search happens within the book.

Well, if you're only searching books in your library's collection, you
can see the exact context by finding the actual book, walking up a
flight of stairs—at worst—and looking inside of it.

Obviously I get the point of the distinction, but it brings up
something that can get lost. What are these tools *for* exactly? What
role should ease of use and speed play in the finding of resources
that by their very nature are often neither easy or fast? For library
books in academic institutions are often neither.

I submit that an index without in-browser reading this would
dramatically extend what's possible in an academic library. Sure, the
tool would get a lot more "use" if you could read the books in the
browser. But what would that use look like? I'm guessing 90% of it
would be very shallow. The 10% that wasn't shallow is the part that
would be possible with an index alone--finding, tracking down and
digesting material that was previously impossible to find.(1)


1. I'll give you an example. I wrote my undergraduate history thesis
on the image of ancient Greece in the Antebellum South. There just
wasn't that much on it, at least that tackled it the way I wanted to.
I wanted to find references to who read what Greek authors, and what
they thought about them. So I basically read through the *indexes* of
a few hundred relevant books—papers, biographies, histories, poetry,
etc. It took weeks and nearly drove me insane. I would have KILLED for
the ability to select a call-number range and search across it for
"Homer" or "Herodotus." Believe me, page numbers alone would have been
a huge help!

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