09 January 2009

Getting Into Google Books II [Lessons]

On Monday we covered how to set up a personalized Google Books library, done with the aim of getting us to take better advantage of this digitized resource.

Today, I want to cover using the iGoogle Google Books gadget as a portal to your personalized library. If you use iGoogle as your homepage (or even if you don't) the gadget provides a handy access point for your library that is never more than a few clicks away. Let's get started.

Getting the Gadget

To get the gadget, you should be logged into your Google Account and have an iGoogle page setup. (If you don't have an iGoogle page already, you can check out my post on how to get one. The look of iGoogle pages has changed since that post, but the basics are the same). You can get the Google Books gadget here.

Once installed the gadget will look something like this (assuming you have added enough books to your library to generate recommended reads):

The Bigger The Better

Clicking on the maximize button (the little window shade in the top right corner of the gadget) will expand your gadget to full-size, taking up the full real estate of your iGoogle page, like this:

A fine, expansive palette upon which your genealogy-research masterpiece can be wrought.

Benefits and Drawbacks

First, the benefits. With the increased real estate of the gadget, you can now access your personalized library (and other books within Google Books) from within the gadget.... meaning you don't have to go to the Google Books site in order to search or browse books (the embedded API of the book is cut off a little in the pic below, but you get the idea):

Note that you can search within any given book (using the search field noted by the arrow, above) within the context of the gadget. You're deep into Google Books functionality at this point, but still on your own iGoogle page:

You can also browse all books within your library from the gadget, and preview suggested titles that are generated by Google Books' algorithms.

Unfortunately, there are some aspects where the Google Books gadget falls a little short, at least for now. Remember all those neat tags we attributed to our books in our last lesson? Well, for now, those tags are non-existent within the world of the iGoogle gadget. Add that absence to the hopeless cover view of the gadget, and your personalized library can get VERY difficult to browse once you have hundreds of titles accumulated.

On top of that, you cannot (within the gadget) refine a search to range only within the contents of your library; this is an option that is available on the Google Books site. This means that any "Search Books" term search you run through the gadget will default to searching the entire Google Books library... useless if you are trying to find something you have already placed within your own library, or if you are fishing for a term within a specific set of books you have in your library.

Despite those two problems (which I imagine will be remedied in future gadget releases), the iGoogle Google Books gadget is a great way to incorporate the world of digitized books into your research rotation. This way you can stuff your bookshelves full and still have room for more!

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