Google has put out a cool update to its book search service that lets anyone embed entire books, or just book previews on their site. While aimed mainly at online retailers and educational institutes, it's also a great way to drop entire public domain works onto your blog in case you want to give your visitors something more exciting to flip through than your latest ramblings.
The news comes alongside some partnerships including A1Books, Books-A-Million, and The Book Depository. When you're viewing an indexed title on any of these sites you'll see a Google preview link that lets you peruse the innards of the book without leaving the sale page. According to a post on Google's Book Search blog, larger retailers including Powell's Books, Borders and Buy.com will be added "in the coming weeks."
If you're wondering why Amazon.com is not one of the online stores to be included, it's because it's had this feature since late 2003. Its in-house "search inside" feature is essentially the same, although limited to titles within its catalog. Under Google's system, any retailer would be able to get this same functionality--including the capability to let readers view the entire work with whatever titles had been indexed. Back in 2006, the two companies traded legal blows due to the suspicion that Google's book search program was leading towards this functionality.
How to get the books on your blog:
There are a handful of ways to drop books wherever you want. Putting the hard code on your site also allows for fun stuff like the Book Bar, and special preview links that will send readers straight to the live view of the book. Google's documentation makes it sound like you need to use a lot of special HTML code onto your site's header pages, but unless you're planning to add books on a daily basis you can get by if you know any book's ISBN number (which can be found on Google Book Search).
Using Google's special embed wizard you just plug in the ISBN, along with the size you want, and it generates four lines of code you can put into a post instead of your site's main code. I used George Orwell's Animal Farm since it's in public domain, although you can take any title with a partial view as well. What's interesting is that you can't just grab this code from books you're viewing in Google Book Search. I assume this will be added later, much like it was on Google Maps. In the meantime, the wizard is your best bet, with results that look like this: