… New to me, that is. It’s been around for a few years, though I just never spent any time there.

For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed having Google Books to prowl through. Because I work on sources that are well out of copyright, many of the books I write about are available in fulltext on Google Books, albeit sometimes with blurred or missing pages. (I do my bit by reporting these when I run across them. It only takes a second).

Some of the features of Google Books make it a very useful tool for scanning a book rapidly to find out if it’s the edition you need or to check a quotation or illustration; I’m talking about the fulltext word search (I wish they would include an option to download PDFs with this feature!) and the see-every-page-at-a-glance tool (the four little squares). That glance tool is great for “paging” forward to a particular chapter.

But Google Books as a reading space is … well, let’s just say it’s utilitarian.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered an inviting reading space online that links to Google Books as well as to other digitized books. It’s called the Internet Archive (okay, so the name is not particularly inviting), and its goal is “universal access to all knowledge.” Not a trivial thing! Despite the grand goals, the interface is more book-in-your-lap than echoing-halls-of-marble. You can download the book in various formats, or you can page through it, either manually or as a slideshow. Take a glance at this, one of my favorites:

Where are we?

Now step into that mysterious land yourself …
Arabella Buckley’s The Fairy-land of Science

What do you think?