Friday, June 15, 2012

Vintage Books as PDF Files--for Free!

Yesterday while searching Google Books and the Biodiversity Heritage Library for a few more old pig books to quote in Homegrown Pork (my upcoming pig book for Storey Publishing), it occurred to me that not everyone knows about these fabulous resources. I've downloaded the full text of hundreds of vintage livestock books over the years and it hasn't cost a cent, not ever. You can do it too.

When I'm researching material for the books and articles I write, I download material directly onto a thumb drive (zip drive) devoted to that subject. This way I don't clog up my working computers, as they tend to get sloooow when I fill them up with PDFs and hi-resolution photos.

These are my pig, horse, and cattle book thumb drives

I keep my thumb drives in a box by my computer. So I can find them quickly, I mark them with a distinctive tag. Since these drives hold an immense amount of material (my pig drive, for instance, holds 4 gigabytes of information), I can download and keep even huge files.

My favorite source of livestock material is the Biodiversity Heritage Library, offering 55,757 separate titles. And, this site is easy to use. Here's what to do.

Navigate to the Biodiversity Heritage Library site, click on Subject (be sure to use the Subject tab, not General or any of the others), and fill in your needs. Let's use Morgan horse for an example. When your search results for Morgan Horse come up, click on Morgan horse again. This will bring up six titles, all of them exquisite, next-to-impossible-to-find-in-print classics like Joseph Battell's The Morgan Horse and register (I paid $150 for a truly battered hardcover copy of this book in 1978 and later sold it for $200) and D. C. Linsley's Morgan Horses, a premium essay on the origin, history, and characteristics of this remarkable American breed of horses. Click on your title of interest and when it loads, choose they type of download you desire from the Download/About this Book pull-down menu at the top of the panel. It's free.

Or, if you'd like to view sheep books, type sheep in the search box; this leads to a choice of 14 subjects including Cheviot sheep, Merino sheep, sheep breeding, sheep breeds, and just plain sheep. Click on sheep again and choose from a list of 155 titles. Wow!

Google Books is my other source of vintage books in public domain. Enter Morgan horses in the search box. When results come up, click on Free Google eBooks in the left hand column (it's under the heading, Any books). Battell and Linsley's books are there, though Biodiversity Heritage Library offers a wider selection.

But, the beauty of Google Books is that most volumes are also downloadable as EPUB files to read on modern readers like Nook. Click on the gear symbol in the upper right hand corner of the page to choose the type of download you prefer. As with Biodiversity Heritage Library, downloads are free.

A third resource I use is the Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project website, where 76 vintage cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century are available as free PDF downloads. Browse the cookbooks or use the website's search feature to home in on specific recipes.

These sites represent a great way to add to your research library for free, less the cost of a thumb drive to store your vintage books. Check them out! You won't be disappointed.


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