The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 22, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Google Books a helpful tool for researchers

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — When Google in 2004 announced that it had reached an agreement with several research libraries to scan their collections of books and make them available for public use, the concept sounded great.

Imagine all those resources being online, with some of the older ones being provided free of charge. The Google Books website where the scanned books are available is

After the website opens, family history researchers can enter a search for a surname or a location. The site then lists books that provide those types of information.

After a resource is selected, the site lists the author, publisher, year of publication, libraries where it is located and places where it can be purchased. The website also notes whether the book is available in an e-book version.

Snippets of text are often included with copyrighted books. Reviews are sometimes included, too.

If the book is out of copyright, one can read the entire book at no charge. After a free book opens, one can do a search for names and locations.

Major problems developed with the project, however, when some copyrighted books were digitized and placed online without author and publisher approval. In some cases, the author or publisher could not be located.

Because of the problems, several publishers and authors have been in litigation with Google for the past eight years. Five major publishers in the Association of American Publishers reached an agreement with Google in early October. Other publishers will benefit as a result of that agreement. A class-action lawsuit by several authors is still in litigation.

The Google Books website continues to provide an astounding collection of more than 20 million digitized books. If you haven't visited the site, you are missing an extraordinary source of information for your family history research.

Suggestions or queries? Write Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168 or email frankie