Books are dense, factual and comprehensive. Books also describe assimilated research and opinion a minimum 6 months to a year old by definition. Their accessible nature makes them particularly useful in detailed research. Libraries and bookstores will be happy to assist you. Books can also contain far more detail than you require. Many tools described here will help you locate books by title/author/subject but few tools describe book quality or contents.
Free Books Online
There are a few books available on the internet as full text. Don't spend long looking. There are two primary book archives and a long list of specialist book archives. Thankfully most of these are indexed brilliantly by The On-Line Books Page at the University of Pennsylvania. Start with a their very effective subject directory or:
Government Publications are singularly certain to be valuable, if one can be found. Thankfully, this too is not difficult. Three government publication databases are free online.
The Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications (MOCAT-1994+), is a service of the [US] Government Printing Office (GPO). This is the database of US Government Publications and covers the Federal Depository Library Program; books, reports, maps, posters, and periodicals published in paper, microfiche and electronic products. Further descriptions can be found from their website, website description and field search page, or from Dialog and FirstSearch. Start a search here or:
ADJ AND OR NOT must be capitalized, * for stem ".." for phrases
The Australian Government Index of Publications, (AGIP 1992+) is produced by AusInfo (formerly the AGPS) and is essentially a database of AusInfo publications and books reported to AusInfo by other Australian agencies. Start your search here. Further descriptions can be found from their website. AGIP books can be ordered through AusInfo's various purchase points including the internet and their stores in large Australian cities.
The [UK] Stationery Office is the official publisher for the UK Parliament and all government departments. Their publications are available through their ITSOfficial.net (www.itsofficial.net), and particularly their advanced search from the UKState website (www.ukstate.com). Here is an abbreviated UKStationery Office publication search:
Accepts Quotes and Boolean AND OR NOT
This publication database represents perhaps 60% of the more definitive United Kingdom Official Publications (UKOP) database featured below.
Commercial Bookstore Databases
Bookstores sell current books and the bookstore catalogues provide good coverage of what sells. Some online databases include background information but the search techniques are rather limited to author/title/category and the database size is actually small when compared to the alternatives. In the interest of speed, here are the search forms to four top online book catalogues:
WHSmith, a prominent UK bookstore chain, is online as The Internet Bookshop (www.bookshop.co.uk). Start with the advanced search page here or this quick Author/Title keyword search:
AND is assumed, "Quotes" accepted.
Borders (borders.com) is a prominent US bookstore chain.
AND is assumed. % is the wildcard symbol. "quotes" not allowed.
Amazon.Com (amazon.com) is in the US and UK. Browse books by subject, or use this simple keyword search.
The next step is to check the large books catalogues to see if we can find a book to match your interest. We could start with a library catalogue near you or proceed to the much larger world-class library catalogues.
The Library of Congress Online Catalogue (catalog.loc.gov) Our script here is a shortcut to their title/subject/author search. Open 24hrs/day. Includes about 12 million records.
Click "full record" to get further details. Limits may be added at any time and there are plenty of general help files.
The British Library (www.bl.uk) has their very large catalogue online, though unfortunately closed 4 hours a day (their midnight to 4am), Sundays & English bank holidays. The British Library is comparable in size to the Library of Congress.
The National Library of Australia (www.nla.gov.au) presents their catalogue online too. Search their full catalogue here or their periodical catalogue here.
Copac (copac.ac.uk) provides unified access to the online catalogues of some of the largest research university libraries in the UK and Ireland. Use their author/title, subject and periodical search.
The library catalogues of large national libraries, in theory, should not be dramatically superior to the commercial book databases. In theory but not in practice as there can be substantial delays or omissions to the national library catalogues, frustratingly clear when you search for recent books.
Information about new books is organized in a collection of national "Books in Print" databases. This information is publisher-verified, includes forthcoming titles, and is updated far faster than the library and bookstore catalogues.
Books in Print, produced by Bowker, delivers publisher-verified information on US books. Also includes some forthcoming titles. Further descriptions can be found from the OVID Fieldguide, Silverplatter, FirstSearch and EBSCO.
British Books in Print produced by Whitaker & Sons, delivers publisher-verified information on UK books. Also includes some forthcoming titles. Further descriptions can be found from Dialog,
Further national book indexes exist as books and databases: Australian Books in Print (Thorpe) Canadian Books in Print (University of Toronto Press) Les Livres Disponibles/French Books in Print (Electre) Italian Books in Print German Books in Print
All these directories are available in print or as a database. A few databases are also grouped together as Global Books in Print (though not really global). There may be recent print editions in your state library but don't bother. The directory is not user-friendly, as you must page through each month's subject categories to find anything.
A convenient alternative access point is your favorite large bookstore. For about Au$4500/year, many bookstores subscribe to Global Books in Print on CD-ROM, or a national 'books in print' database. There should be no cost for searching but ask for the date and the database name so you have a clearer idea of what is being searched.
UK Official Publications Database
The [UK] TSOnline catalogue mentioned above is not definitive. This role falls to the commercially available United Kingdom Official Publications (UKOP) database is the large database of government publications for the United Kingdom. It is prepared jointly by the UK Stationery Department and Bell and Howell Information and Learning Company representing a merger of the UK Stationery Department Catalogue and the old Chadwyck-Healey 'Catalogue of British Official Publications Not Published by The Stationery Office'. UKOP Online presents an annual internet subscription service (unpriced).
We have further information on file.
An alternative entry to finding books is seeking Book Reviews. Read also Locating Book Reviews, thanks to Monash University Library.
Book Review Digest is produced by H.W.Wilson, and cites and excerpts book reviews from many American and Canadian periodicals. Further descriptions can be found from SilverPlatter, FirstSearch.
Book Review Index is both a book and a database which references a much larger collection of book reviews. Further descriptions can be found from Dialog,
5 Second Summary:
Many literary books, like Shakespeare, are online.
Several government publication databases are free online.
For a serious book search, you need one of the
national books in print databases.
True to the internet, many more resources are emerging online to help people find the book they want. There are book review archives, author fan clubs, and book discussion lists. Many discussion groups will occasionally review new books.
There are also book-finding services with access to specialized tools. Suffice to say there is more to this industry than we have reported in this article.
Books on Demand is a directory of out of print books available for reprinting. The directory includes price and order addresses. There are additional directories for Large Type Books (called Large Type Books in Print) and Children's Books (Children's Books in Print).
A word about Book Searching. Obviously title searches are not effective tools to discover new books. Not all books on Vincent Van Gogh include Vincent in the title. Subject searches, work well only if you can grasp the indexing.
Apply these effective search techniques:
1) Browse the subject listing and select the subjects which interest you.
2) Read the subject listings off a book you know interests you - then search for other books in those subjects.
3) Search for other publications from suggestive authors (especially when the author is an association).
Library catalogues, like LOCOC, can illustrate these techniques. Let's say a title or subject search lands you with one of the books listed in LOCOC (start here). This catalogue lists the applicable subject titles.
Can you see how looking at related books could be useful? (Try the links found on a book description.) Alternatively, you can browse the subject headings for Information Research at LOCOC. You get a different approach.
A word about Book Types. Just as internet information comes in different qualities and formats, books also come in different styles and flavours. Books written by industry insiders are characterized by personal stories and expert wisdom from an author telling all the secrets. These books are worth looking for, and the short bio may give a clue.
Books written by Journalists have a different flavour, slightly more newsy with less factual than, let say, Government books (far more factual than most), and frequently updated books (far more current than most). Try to find the style of book suited to your needs.