Google Books launched today. I'm a Googler so I've been using it for a while, and so far I like it quite a bit. But okay, whatever, you expect that from me. So here, at least, is an explanation of why I like it.
Rewind a few weeks. I'd been using Google Books for several months by now. My mentality had been: well it's neat, but you know... it's just a Kindle clone, right? And the book scanning project is interesting and cool, but whatever -- just a novelty really, or maybe of interest to academics and librarians. That all seemed sort of outside my world, so I wasn't paying much attention.
But then I searched for The Call of the Wild, figuring I'd reread a favorite book from my childhood. That search turned up something else: In the Maine Woods, a sort of half-travelogue half-advertisement published by the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad periodically. This version was from 1906.
My family is from Maine. And not just like Bar Harbor here, I'm talking about Maine as in, Millinocket, Milo, Island Falls. Aroostook potato people. My grandfather spent more or less his entire career at the B&A; he worked his way up to yardmaster and trainmaster in Millinocket. Millinocket was barely incorporated in 1906. The book talks about nearby landmarks but doesn't mention Millinocket because it didn't yet amount to much.
This book is hilarious, awesome, and fascinating. Not to mention all the incredible photos, like 2 guys with no less than 14 trout, wearing the dour portrait faces of the day. I can't adequately describe what it is like to read through this book about my family's stomping grounds apparently 104 years after it was published. I can't even really decide how I'm feeling about it.
This book was apparently scanned from Harvard's library as part of the book scanning project. Amazon has a print version of it, but it's a later edition, and costs $23. And anyway I had to look it up -- I would never have just found it, let alone read it for free. Finding this book at random like this was so unexpected but strangely meaningful, if only to me.
So, I get it now. This is what the Books scanning project is all about.