A Personal Library Without Books

The subject of printed books and electronic books (or e-books) has been featured in numerous past articles in this newsletter. Therefore, I was interested today to see an online Associated Press article and video at https://yhoo.it/2C9Pg9d about numerous universities that are purging many printed books from their shelves. In many cases, the libraries simply don’t have the room for all the old books, and the idea of expanding libraries is subject to budget constraints. If they want to purchase new books, even printed publications, the libraries have to free up shelf space. Also, according to one 2009 study of libraries, between staffing, utility costs, and other expenses, it costs about $4 to keep a book on the shelf for a year.

Click here to see a video about universities purging dusty volumes

In one example at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, (yes, there really is an Indiana University of Pennsylvania, see https://www.iup.edu/ for details), nearly half of the university’s collection remained uncirculated for 20 years or more. Unused books obviously do no one any good.

Of course, an increasing number of books exist in the cloud where publishing costs, shipping costs, and storage costs are only a fraction of the expense of printed books. In addition, most students and even many older library users prefer the convenience of Wikipedia, Archive.org, Google Books, and other free sources of information along with paid services, such as Kindle.

Of course, genealogists are a part of this trend. The specialized genealogy libraries that many of us have used for years suffer from the same budget constraints as other libraries. They probably also have the problem of books that are not accessed for years at a time. Today, there are more genealogy books available through your home computer than at any genealogy library. Just ask the folks at FamilySearch, an organization that has downsized their printed book collection in favor of making the same books and other publications available online whenever copyright laws allow.

Libraries aren’t the only ones facing these decisions. Individuals face the same issues. For instance, my iPad now contains more than 150 e-books, including numerous genealogy books, old county histories, and more. I carry all of them with me almost every time I travel. Try to do that with printed books! In addition, most of the e-books are easier to search than are the printed books. I can find any word or phrase in an e-book within seconds with the exception of a few of the books printed electronically in PDF format. For those few books, I have to search the old-fashioned way, one page at a time, the same as in a printed book.

I admit I love the feel and the smell of old and even new printed books. However, when purchasing a book, the funds available in my wallet usually dictate my choice. The cost of purchasing a printed book, shipping, buying yet another bookshelf (and finding a place for it in my home!), usually swings my decision in the opposite direction. Sometimes we don’t have a choice; but, if a choice is available, I usually will select the ebook version of a book I want to read.

Which do you prefer?

NOTE: The idea for this article was triggered this morning when I purchased a new book from Amazon. I had to make a choice between paperback or Kindle. The Kindle version was much cheaper, requires no additional storage space, and was delivered (electronically) to my iPad seconds later with no shipping charge. The choice was obvious to me.


You wrote:
“…my iPad now contains more than 150 e-books, including numerous genealogy books, old county histories, and more. I carry all of them with me almost every time I travel. ”
I have an iPad, but am a PC person. How do you get them to your iPad? How do you find them once in your iPad? How do you do a search? Were the 150 books free?
Sorry if you have covered this. If you have not, maybe you will cover this some later time?
Thank you.


    —> How do you get them to your iPad?

    I think there are two or three ways but the simplest, at least for me, is to order Kindle ebooks directly from the iPad. Don’t touch your PC or Mac. Instead, use the iPad to open a web browser and go to Amazon.com, find what you want, and purchase it directly by using the iPad. The new book then appears automatically within a few minutes. The exact amount of time required depends on the size of the ebook and the speed of your Internet connection.

    There are other ways to order books from companies or web sites other than Amazon, but the process will be a little bit different for them and will depend upon the web site or company from which you obtained the ebook. In most cases, the companies or web sites will give specific instructions on how to download the ebooks directly to your Kindle, iPad, Android device, PC, Macintosh, or whatever system you are using on your end.

    For instance, instructions to read ebooks from Archive.org are given at https://archive.org/about/faqs.php#Books_and_Texts and at https://archive.org/about/faqs.php#1158

    —> How do you find them once in your iPad?

    Download and install the Kindle app from the iPad app store. Purchase or download ebooks from anyplace (I normally obtain mine from Amazon or from Archive.org). Then open the Kindle app on your iPad and touch ALL to see all your ebooks.

    —> How do you do a search?

    Once the ebook is opened in your iPad or other device that runs Kindle software, touch the SEARCH icon and enter the words or phrase you wish to search for. You can always search in ebooks that are in Kindle’s file format and usually can search in other ebooks in other formats as well. However, a few ebooks that are published as PDF files cannot be searched if the author or publisher did not allow it to be searched. That is an option when creating a PDF file. Once the author or publisher selects to not make it searchable, that cannot be easily overridden by the person reading the file later. (Actually, there are ways to convert non-searchable PDF files to searchable ones but the process requires quite a bit of technical knowledge and a Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer.)

    —> Were the 150 books free?

    Some were, some were not. Ebooks downloaded from archive.org are always free. Ebooks downloaded from Amazon usually first require payment although there are some exceptions that are free ebooks available on Amazon.


You wrote:
“I can find any word or phrase in an e-book within seconds with the exception of a few of the books printed electronically in PDF format. For those few books, I have to search the old-fashioned way, one page at a time, the same as in a printed book. ”
I have an iPad, but am a PC person. I assume that you mean you do *not* have to read each PDF page, but can use some kind of search feature? Sorry to be an old, slow PC user.
Thank you


    —> I assume that you mean you do *not* have to read each PDF page, but can use some kind of search feature?

    Yes. Search within a book is built into the Kindle devices as well as on Kindle software that is installed on iPad, Android, Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and other devices. On all the devices where I have seen Kindle software installed, it is an icon in the Kindle app that looks like a magnifying glass.


A few short and separate comments.

Whether you can transfer an e-book from one device to another and keep more than one copy for your own use may appear to be limited by restrictions that the contract with the publisher attempts to impose. What the publishers worry about is unauthorised transfer to other people.but they shouldn’t stop you retaining it on alternative devices. You have purchased the book just as much as you would have done the if you had chosen the print version, which you could carry anywhere. And who has invented the computer device that will last a lifetime?

Google books is the most notorious of the book digitisers to restrict searching on downloaded pdfs – it is attempting to capture readers in its analytics by making them search the texts online so that it can drive up its advertising revenue.

Libraries’ attitude to keeping printed books is determined by the extent to which their institution claims to be research oriented. Circulation figures do not necessarily indicate use (unless they also count books retrieved from closed stacks). Researchers will often read books without taking them out of the library – but many librarians do not really understand researchers’ needs and usage patterns – because they have never done any real research themselves! Some are more enlightened – and are making their stacks open to researchers to browse, because they have recognised that researchers are likely to make unexpected discoveries by serendipity.


First, Uncirculated does NOT mean unused. No library should remove a title because it hasn’t left the library. Second, I fear that research is become nothing but “junk science” for those who can’t open multiple books to the “same account” of an historical event and compare them as real researchers used to do. Third, libraries without books, and those with closed stacks, deprive researchers of serendipitous discoveries. For example, had I not been wandering the stacks at SUNY Plattsburgh in the Spring of 1979 I would not have seen the Census of 1855 and opening said volume learned that it recorded duration of residence for every person. This became the foundation of my doctoral dissertation and career as a college history teacher and genealogy lecturer. It saddens me greatly that an increasing number of people who should know better “scoff” at those of us who still use real books and wish our students knew how to conduct real research.


    David, “real research” can be conducted online. What matters is not the format, but the skill with which people can find quality sources, interpret them, and correlate them. But in-depth research must also include the sources that are not online. This is what concerns me more – that attitude that if it’s not online, it doesn’t exist, and it’s not worth it to take the extra steps. I think most serious researchers will take those steps – the rest just need to understand that this is what’s necessary. I agree with you, however, that closed stacks and other ways of restricting print materials diminish the possibility of discovery.


“yes, there really is an Indiana University of Pennsylvania”
Ah, yes, this definitely brought a smile to my face today – I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain that! Both my band director and my brother graduated from IUP, so we have been associated with them for decades. Thanks for the smile today!



I had all my books digitized to pdf a few years ago. I then made the pdf’s searchable. My whole library (about 300 books) sits on my iPad and on my computer (and backed up to multiple drives and clouds). I use Bookscan.us ($1/book) to scan the books, and the GoodReader app on my iPad to read/notate the books. I also now buy almost all my books in Kindle form.


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