How Awesome is Google Books?

8 Dec
Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Seriously, is there a way to quantify the awesomeness of Google Books? I say no.  Its awesomeness is infinite.

For example, I’m working on a chapter on wind power, at the moment writing a short section on wind energy in the ancient world. A book I’m using as my lodestone, Wind Energy in America by Robert Righter (I have the actual, physical book in hand) has a short section on 10th century Persian horizontal windmills.  Now, in the old, pre-advanced Internet day (yes, I’m old enough to remember those dark times), learning more about Persian mills would have meant going to the library, hope the computers there would cough up the correct reference number, and then comb the stacks, hoping the book was in the right place. This would take most of the day.

Today, hours have been compressed into minutes. Just a moment ago I came across the reference in Righter’s book, did a quick Google search for “Persian windmills,” browsed the relevant Wikipedia entry and found a footnote directing me to another book–Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology by Adam Lucas.  Another quick search on Google Books turned up the book, and within about 20 second I had the relevant information on my computer screen.  The whole process took no more than three minutes.

We’re so accustomed to advanced computing and the ubiquitous availability of the Internet that it’s sometimes difficult to step back and appreciate how this technology has changed the way we work, live, and even think.  But when I do take the time to reflect on this score, it’s simply astonishing.

Now, back to the book.

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