A week or so ago, the "Search my library" button disappeared. The new Google Books page offers all sorts of ways to waste time sorting and labeling books, but no longer can I just click and search just the books in my own library.
Whose bright idea was that? Someone at Google who doesn't appreciate the true sublimity of Google Books, which resides not in the contentious copyrighted works but in the huge collection of older books and periodicals available for full-text searching. When I researched my annotated edition of Ambrose Bierce's 1909 usage book, I amassed a collection of grammar, vocabulary, reference, and usage books dating from the mid-1700s to the early 1900s, all copyright-free and searchable and clippable. (I could have bought all the books and searched them by hand, but I'm not sure I would have managed to publish in time for the book's 100th anniversary.)
Google's book search was far from perfect, as researchers well know. The same search may bring different results on different attempts. I might search my library for a term I knew was in Bierce's own book -- "expectorate," say -- and find that citation unaccountably missing from the results. But with repeated searches and cross-reference checks, I think (and hope) I approximated the level of accuracy a manual search would have yielded. (As for Google's laughable metadata -- dates off by centuries, crazy categorization, misattribution -- Geoff Nunberg is all over the case.)
OK, this was all a free service, and I actually got lucky -- it was working just at the time I needed it. So I shouldn't be complaining, right? Besides, Google has explained that there's a workaround: To search your library, just plug your parameters into this sample formula:
* The "as_coll=0" parameter defines which bookshelf you search within. In this example, the search is within my "favorites" bookshelf. You can change the parameter to other bookshelf IDs, which are visible in the URL for each of your bookshelves.
* To search within your accounts, you will need to change the value in the uid= parameter to your Google account ID. You will see this account ID in the URL when you visit My Library.
* The q= parameter is what specifies what word or term to search for. So in the example above, I am searching for the word "mad." You can replace this parameter with your search term, Please note that you will need to include "+" between multiple search terms.
Yes, I can do that. Thanks, I guess. But would it really be that hard to just restore the "Search my library" button?