Google is re-branding it's Google Print book search project into Google Books. Google is scanning thousands of books from libraries and publishers, which will be searchable online. Public Domain books (example) will be viewable in their entirety. If a book is in copyright you can only view a few pages, but it should be enough to know if you want to track down the book. Links to bookstores are included, which may not be particularly useful for out of print books. Links to libraries are not included, so I'd recommend searching for interesting books in CONSULS, RedLightGreen, or Worldcat (either our database or via Yahoo or Google--add site:worldcatlibraries.org to a Yahoo search or a Google search) before you purchase anything. You can now search Google Books at http://books.google.com/, and book results will also appear in regular Google searches.
Oddly, Google Book results do not seem to appear in Google Scholar, despite the inclusion of materials from several academic libraries and publishers. Google Scholar does include a Library Search link for "normal" book results, which links to the WorldCat search. Oh well, everything is still in beta testing mode. Maybe it will all get linked eventually.
Google Print/Books is still being sued by the Authors Guild for copyright infringement. Several analyses (here's one) have been done supporting Google's claim of fair use, but it may take the courts to decide.
Amazon.com announced a new ebook purchase plan, to be started sometime next year. Customers will have an option to buy a digital copy of print books (assuming the agreement of copyright holders) that they purchase for a small additional fee (10% seems to be the most common number being floated around, but prices will be set in negiotiation with the copyright holders). Or customers can buy portions of a book, like a chapter or just a few pages. These might be interesting options for distance students who buy their textbooks via Amazon. You could get a print copy to have at home, and a digital copy accessible through Amazon's website where ever you go. This is supposed to work in the same way that the Amazon Shorts program works. Shorts are short works of fiction or nonfiction, available for $.49 a piece. You can read online, save (PDF) or print. Hopefully, the save option will stay available for longer works. Look for announcements about this program from Amazon next year (2006).
Random House also has an ebooks program that will include the ability to buy small portions of the books. $.99 for 20 pages was suggested in Barbara Quint's recent article, Online Books: The Fee vs. Free Battle Begins.
The Open Content Alliance has an impressive list of partners/sponsors: the Internet Archive, Microsoft, the Research Libraries Group, the British Library, Adobe, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, UVa, Univ. of California, the Smithsonian, Yahoo!, and more. The Internet Archive is hosting the OpenLibrary site, which will house the online books. There are only a few titles up so far, but the plans include hundreds of thousands of books (starting with contributions from the British Library) readable online for free and available for hardcopy purchase at low prices.
Meanwhile, the Online Books Page, probably the best listing of online books on the Internet right now, has beefed up their technology by including an RSS feed from their newest books listings. These can feed directly into a RSS news reader or a web page (via a conversion program). The latest book listed is shown via the RSS feed on my Open Access Books page under the first entry, the Online Books Page.
On the local front, Buley Library subscribes to NetLibrary, an online book service. We have over 300 books currently available through the subscription. We also have two collections of reference ebooks, Oxford Reference Online (including the Oxford Companion to... series), and XReferPlus, plus the Oxford English Dictionary. The newest addition to our ebook collection is Knovel K-Essentials, a collection of engineering, physics, chemistry, and mathematics texts. All of these ebooks are available directly from the Database Page and are included in CONSULS, and so will come up in your library catalog searches (example). When searching CONSULS, be sure that you are looking at a record for the SCSU copy of an electronic book. Unlike print books, we have no access to ebooks from other CSU libraries.
NOTE: ebooks viewed through the online catalog will come up in a frame. Once you have determined where the book is from (Oxford, NetLibrary, etc.), you can search that database specifically if you want to avoid the frame. Firefox browser users may be able to use the rightclick menu choices under This Frame to display the database page.
It is possible to search the online catalog for online books, but it is a little complicated, due to a quirk of our catalog system. There are several formats for electronic books avaiable from a keyword search, but you can only search one at a time. Try the following from the Material Type drop down menu on the Keyword Search page: either EBOOK/TEXT or NETLIBRARY. You may also want to try INTERNET LINK, which will pick up many government documents available online.
See the Ebooks and Open Access Books pages for more ebook links.
I highly recommend the Barbara Quint article I mentioned above.
Update: I should finish reading my RSS news before posting. The Library of Congress has just announced another effort, the World Digital Library. SearchEngineWatch has a good article.