I wrote before about the huge resources available at Google Books. You can find hundreds of thousands of books there, many of them with every word searchable. Amongst the hundreds of thousands of books, probably ten thousand of them are genealogy or local history books. I have had great luck downloading and saving entire books to my own hard drive.
Google generally makes available the full text of books in the public domain and limited portions of copyrighted books. In cases where the entire book is not available online, Google Books will tell you the location of the nearest library that has it on the shelves. You can read my earlier article at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2006/10/full_text_genea.html.
Now Google Books has announced a major expansion.
Twelve major universities around the United States have agreed to have substantial portions of their libraries included in the Google Books project. Around ten million volumes are expected to be added to the project. Some percentage of these will be older genealogy or local history books.
Participating schools include the University of Chicago and the 11 universities in the Big Ten athletic conference: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.
You can read more about this expansion on CNN at http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/internet/06/08/big.ten.books.ap/index.html.