One of the biggest strengths of the Internet is the ability to disseminate information. Whether you are looking for the latest international news, stock market reports, baseball scores, the technical manual for an obscure piece of electronics, or a book about your family tree, the information probably is available on the Internet. For this article, I'll focus solely on genealogy books and local history books. History books printed 75 to 150 years ago often mention local residents and can be valuable resources for genealogists.
Finding old genealogy and history books has been difficult for many people, especially those who live some distance from the homes of their ancestors. Sure, if you seek a history book about Massachusetts towns, you can probably find many of them in any large library in Massachusetts. But what do you do if you live in a small town in Nebraska?
For years, several small companies have provided valuable services to genealogists by offering reprints of long out-of-print genealogy and history books. Depending upon binding and other manufacturing costs, these books ranged in price from $25 to several hundred dollars. For instance, one well-known book written in 1901 about my family name now sells as a reprint for $150 to $250, depending on the binding and on who reprinted it. That's not cost-effective for most of us, especially when we only want to look up a few names! I can find that book in a library, assuming it is stocked at a library within a reasonable commuting distance from me. However, some limited edition books may only be available at libraries that are 500 or more miles away.
Luckily, that same book is available online free of charge. Best of all, I can download the entire book to my hard drive and save it, then use it over and over again as often as I like. I can even print individual pages from the book or even the entire book, should I wish to do so. The cost? Zero. Zip. Nada. Free. (Well, I do need a computer and an Internet connection, but I already have those. Let's say that the entire book is available to me at "no additional cost.")
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