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Mining Google Books for Its Secrets

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, when it comes to finding works in the Public Domain, you can’t find what you don’t know you’re looking for. Because I’m such a crazy research type, I’ve developed (and stumbled upon) some research methodologies to help me actually FIND some of those gems I keep telling you about. In today’s article, I’m going to pull back the curtain on some search “tricks” I’ve discovered to aid you in finding and identifying a treasure trove of books, magazines, newspapers and more!

I’m realizing more and more that, when it comes to finding the information you’re REALLY looking for, you have to use the right keywords and keyword phrases. How many times have you tried to find something on Google by typing in the LOGICAL keyword(s) and the results that are returned are nothing but crap? I hate that! This “problem” is part of the dark side of Google’s (and others) search algorithms. Making the search engine spit out the seeming OBVIOUS results you need can definitely be a lesson in futility. I’ve found that the same issues tend to be true with Google Books (http://books.google.com) as well! What good is having access to tens of thousands of books if you can’t find what you’re looking for? Right?

I’ve been experimenting and testing some searching strategies on Google Books that are returning some promising results. I’ve been able to identify and discover the types of books I’m looking for much more quickly. Now, some of what I’m going to share may seem obvious to you, but chances are that fewer than one out of a hundred of you are actually using these methods to locate those Public Domain goodies we all want. I debated sharing this with you for free because it’s proven really effective against the war on search engine results, but I want to see you succeed, and I’ll never be able to use ALL the content I’m finding. So, here is this research secret described as clearly as I can.

As I stated early, when using a search engine of any type, it’s ALL about the keywords, and in this article, I want to show you how to find books (and other printed works) that you are completely unaware of. Here’s why, it would seem obvious that, if you want to find books on “DOGS,” or to be even more specific, “SIBERIAN HUSKIES,” it would seem obvious that all you need to do is just type in THOSE keywords and you’re good to go, right? In most cases, NO! Try it! Sure, you may find some books, but are they the best ones to find?

There are a number of printed sources that contain listings of books, with the most obvious one being bibliographies. There are also Guides, Catalogs, Periodicals, Magazines, and Newspapers. So the first thing we want to do in our search is to test each of THESE keywords to see what type of results we’ll find. If you’re looking for a specific niche, you can also include that niche keyword with your search, ie. dog guide, dog magazine, etc. Here is the list I use when beginning my searches at Google Books (these keywords also work well at Live Search Books (http://books.live.com).

Search Keywords:

  • index
  • guide
  • catalog
  • catalogue
  • periodical
  • magazine
  • newspaper
  • bibliography

Perhaps you noticed that I included two spellings for “catalog.” Both spellings were in use in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, depending on who was using the word. Both keywords usually produce results.

When working specifically with Google Books, I’ve found that there are two ways to speed up the search process, especially if my keyword(s) returned thousands of results—Google’s “Subject” feature and “Intitle” feature. (NOTE: Anytime you are looking for Public Domain books on Google Books, ALWAYS make sure that your results ONLY include “100% Viewable” books.)

Google’s “Subject” feature enables you to search for books based on their subject matter, kind of like general topics or broad niches. Here is the way this works: in the search dialog box, type in the word “search:” with a colon and then the subject you want to search for in quotes…no spaces. Here is an example: subject:”dogs”. The results you’ll receive are the books related to your subject…in this case, “dogs.” In using this feature to find books, or more correctly, lists of books that are in the Public Domain, I’ve identified several keyword combinations with the “Subject” feature that can work extremely well in helping you find what you’re after. Here is the list I use for my own research:

Searches Using Google’s “Subject” Feature:

  • subject:”Best books”
  • subject:”Catalogs, Library”
  • subject:”Catalogs, Booksellers”
  • subject:”Bibliography”
  • subject:”Broadsides”
  • subject:”Collectors and collecting”
  • subject:”Periodicals”
  • subject:”Newspapers”
  • subject:”Publishers and publishing”
  • subject:”Indexes”
  • subject:”American periodicals”
  • subject:”Press”

The results you’ll receive will vary, but using the examples above, you will discover millions of “new” books that you never knew existed before. You can also use this feature together with other keywords to define your search even further. For example, conducting a search using the following search string—subject:”Periodicals” dogs—will return results for only those periodicals that include the keyword “dog.”

Google’s “Intitle” feature enables you to search for books based on keywords in their title. For example, a search using the search string—intitle:Dogs—would only return results that included the keyword “dogs” in the title of the work. This refinement can be very handy in refining your search for specific types of books. For finding listings of books that I know could include the type of information I’m after, I use the following as a part of my own research:

Searches Using Google’s “Intitle” Feature:

  • intitle:Catalog
  • intitle:Magazine
  • intitle:Newspaper
  • intitle:Guide
  • intitle:Periodical

As with the “Subject” feature, using keywords along with the “Intitle” feature will limit your results to those titles that include the keyword(s) in the text of the work. For example, conducting a search with the search string—intitle:magazine dog—would return results that had the keyword “Magazine” in the title and the keyword “dog” in the text of the work.

I hope that this brief report has opened up some new research possibilities for you. Since “Content is King”, finding that content quickly and easily is an extremely important skill to have at your disposal. With this search strategy, you now have one more valuable “tool” in your Product Creation Toolbox!

Tony

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