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Free Books: How to Use Google to Uncover Great Reading Material


Question: Free Books: How to Use Google to Uncover Great Reading Material
More people than ever before in history are using the Web as a free library, and with good reason: there are literally thousands of free books online that you can download in their entirety, listen to in an audio book version, or simply read within your browser window.
Answer: There are a couple different ways to accomplish this with Google. First, let's try a simple search engine query. Because most books on the Web are formatted in .pdf form, we can search by file type. Let's try Google:

filetype:pdf "jane eyre"

This Google search brings back plenty of .pdf formatted files that reference the classic novel "Jane Eyre". However, not all of them are the actual book; quite a few of them are classroom notes or other such materials that just reference Jane Eyre. We can use another kind of Google syntax to make our book search even more powerful - the allinurl command.

What is the "allinurl" command? It's similar to inurl with one crucial difference: allinurl will search ONLY the URL of a document or Web page, while inurl will look at both the URL and the content on the Web page. Note: the "allinurl" command can not be combined with other Google search commands (such as "filetype"), but there's a way around this.

Using the allinurl command, basic search math,quotations, and parentheses for control over exactly which file formats you're looking for, you can tell Google to return the complete work of "Jane Eyre", rather than just excerpts or discussions. Let's see how this would work:

allinurl: +(|zip|pdf|doc) "jane eyre"

Here's how this particular search string breaks down:

  • The allinurl command tells Google that you only want to look at what's in the URL.
  • See that plus sign? That's basic search math, also known as Boolean search. You're telling Google that whatever comes after that plus sign needs to be included.
  • The parentheses and pipes look complicated, but they're really not. They're just grouping tools. The parentheses tell Google that you want to ONLY look at content that is delivered in these file formats, and the pipes separate those formats. Since you are looking for more than one file type, they need to be separated by pipes (the pipe key is accessible on your keyboard right above the "Enter" key; just hit "shift" and that key and you'll get a pipe).
  • The title of your book inside quotation marks tells Google that you want to look for that entire title in exactly the way you've written it.

This Google search string will help you find all sorts of free books online. Feel free to experiment with it a little...add more file types, select other books, etc., and see what you can come up with!

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