Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to Find Books

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, I bet you'd like The Crimson Labyrinth!
Oh wait. This post isn't about discovering new books; it's about tracking down a particular book so you can actually read it. These are my book hunting tips and tricks. Several ethical levels included.

Tip 1: Cat World! No, Make That: World Cat!

WorldCat.org lets you search many library catalogs at once. That's sort of cool by itself, but what really makes WorldCat amazing is its location-based searching. Put a zip code, city, or whatever into the Enter your location box to see list of nearby copies of a book.

If there's a nearby copy but it's in a university library, it doesn't hurt to ask for a community card. I picked up Robert Oerter's book The Theory of Almost Everything from a local Christian university and they didn't even charge me for a card like the public university does!

If there doesn't seem to be a nearby copy, don't panic. Many library collections aren't covered by WorldCat, e.g. the whole public library system here. You'll just have to check those online catalogs yourself. Still nothing? Ask a librarian about interlibrary loan.

Tip 2: Shopping Around With Google Books

Google Books has an easily overlooked feature that's great for comparison shopping. Once you've selected a book, look for the All Sellers link. You might have to click on Get this book in print first. This is an especially good way to find low prices on textbooks.

Tip 3: Buy The "Wrong" E-Books

You don't need a Kindle tablet to read Kindle e-books. There's a Kindle app for Windows, OS X, and pretty much any tablet except a Nook. (Even then, you can "root" your Nook to turn it into a general purpose Android tablet.)

There's also a Nook app for all of these platforms, including Kindle.

Tip 4: Save The Future

If you're reluctant to buy e-books because of all the restrictions, check out these publishers of DRM-free e-books. Tech books and sci-fi/fantasy books are frequently available this way.

Tip 5: Starve An Author

Google Books gives free previews of lots of books. Maybe there's enough visible for what you wanted anyway. (Here's an entire short story, for example.) Same goes for Amazon and other e-book sellers.

Now, let's say you found a preview but you need the whole text. Maybe someone put it on the web? Select some unique line of text from the preview and Google it. Avoid popular quotes but do put quotation marks around the excerpt:
"bones jingling in them at every step"
You can use the filetype operator to narrow things down to your preferred format:
"bones jingling in them at every step" filetype:pdf
Or to use Google as a torrent search site:
"moby dick" filetype:torrent
Tip 6: Get Social

Book exchange clubs are a low cost alternative to buying (mostly) fiction that you can't find in the library. There's something special about reading books with a travel history!


Do you have any more tips to share? Please comment.

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