Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Google Books

Last night I had the sudden need to read Austen. Yes, Jane Austen. I swore off Ms. Austen after reading Pride & Prejudice for the second time. I came away just as annoyed and disappointed as I had the first time. Elizabeth Bennet was never my idea of a heroine. Yes, I should have given up on that title and not everything Austen.

Several months ago I discovered a brilliantly written film, The Jane Austen Book Club. Somehow, someway, that film gave me the push I needed to revisit Austen. Granted, it has been several months of pushing, but last night it pushed me right into reading Austen.

Of course there was a problem. I don't own any Austen. Okay, I own a compilation of Austen novels, but not a readable copy, not one that I can lift or anything. So, after considering a trip out to Walden Books, my least favorite bookstore, I had a thought: When was Austen's Persuasion published?

The publishing date? You want to read Austen and you're wondering about the publication date? Yes. Why? Because I was recently introduced to Google Books. The very entity so many claim is "dumbing down" America offers a wide selection of electronic books. They offer excerpts of current titles and in many cases entire publications that are no longer restricted by copyright or have been released by copyright holders.

Lucky for me Austen's Persuasion was published posthumously in 1818. Lucky for me Google Books offers this particular title to view on their website or to download in pdf format. After a simple search and a less than a minute download, I have in my possession a readable copy of Austen's Persuasion. And yes, reading it on my laptop is much easier than reading the copy I had.

So, I read Persuasion, found it much more enjoyable than Austen's other five novels, and was reminded of why I liked Anne Elliot over Elizabeth Bennet (from Pride & Prejudice) or even Fanny Price (from Mansfield Park). From chapter eleven:
"She thought it was the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly."
If you're like me and decide on a whim at midnight that you need to read a literary classic, give Google Books a chance.

Google Books has a vast inventory as part of their digitization process and they are constantly updating that inventory and notifying Google users via their blog. Now that I've used it for a lengthy title like Persuasion, I feel I can responsibly promote and suggest its use. It has been an excellent source for my continued project that includes reading as many short stories as I can manage in an effort to understand why the art of the short story is so difficult for many readers to appreciate/grasp. And, I must admit I've used Google Books to read various essays of political philosophy for classes--I don't feel the need to actually own Thomas Hobbes or John Locke.

Google Book is almost like having your own private library, accessible 24/7. Except, with Google Books you're guaranteed only the best books, you don't have to get out of your pajamas, and there are free downloads. You still need to support your public library...

2 comments:

Nick Speth said...

I'm sorry Tara. I can't stand Jane Austen, and I'm an English teacher.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Nick!! I didn't say I could stand her either. Only one of her novels is readable/likable as far as I'm concerned.