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How to Download from Google Books

By Guy Verona - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Back in 2004 Google announced that they would be launching something called the Google Print Library Project, with the aim of digitizing around 15 million books so that they could be read via the internet within 10 years. Google achieved that 15 million mark back in 2010, but so far they’ve shown they have no plans to stop in their quest to make all the 130+ million book titles (worldwide) available for people to read online.

Since its creation the Google Print Library Project (originally envisioned purely for academic works) has evolved into Google Books (a service which accepts any kind of book into its fold), which itself has given birth to a number of splinter services, such as the Google eBookstore (currently only available in the US).

Google Books

All of that is pretty great (I am after all a big fan of ebooks), but unfortunately Google haven’t exactly made it easy to get books from their system for people to enjoy offline. Sure if you happen to live in the US you can buy books from the Google eBookstore and download them onto various compatible devices (of which the Kindle is noticeably absent), however personally I’m not terribly keen on paying for eBooks whose copyright has expired (therefore freeing me from my legal obligation to do so). No to mention as I’m not actually situated in the US, I couldn’t pay for the privilege (at least from Google) even if I wanted to, due to stupidly complicated international copyright and distribution laws which Google haven’t yet addressed.

So if you don’t live in the US and you want to download a copyright free book from within the Google books system, how do you do it? Well there are two main methods people use, both of which are outlined below.

Download from Google Books with Firefox

First of all you need to install the Greasemonkey Script Addon for Firefox.

Next install the Google Book Downloader userscript.

That’s pretty much it in theory. You should now be able to download books directly off the Google Books site by hitting the handy ‘Download This Book’ link that appears just above the review section when using the online Google Book Reader.

Sadly it doesn’t actually download the book for you, instead it presents you with a number of links, each one representing a different page of the book. These pages / links can then each be saved as image files (usually .png by default but sometimes .jpeg) in a folder on your computer.

Unfortunately you will need to save (and download) each image separately. Which for a book containing several hundred pages is an absolute nightmare. In theory you could use another addon like Flashgot or DownloadThemAll to make it easier on yourself, but in practice those addons tend to miss out pages, though DownloadThemAll works fine for downloading 20-30 pages at a time (not great but slightly quicker than doing it manually).

Download from Google Books with Internet Explorer

First of all you need to make sure that your windows log-in has admin access on your computer. That done open Internet Explorer and find the book you want to download from Google Books.

Next go to “C:\Documents and Settings\%your admin name%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\”  (or whatever letter directory your documents and settings folder is located in) and delete everything that’s currently inside that folder.

Next go back to your Internet Explorer browser(which should still be open), refresh the page and scroll through the entire book that you want to download.

Now go back to your ‘Temporary Internet Files’ folder and transfer all the image files now in that folder into a new folder (which you should name after the book) and you’re done.

Google eBookstore logo

Of course both of these methods won’t actually download books that can be easily read on ereaders, but they do produce ‘books’ with (mostly unsorted) pages that can be read offline on a computer or tablet.  For information on how to format the books for reading on an ereading device, check out our guides for Image to PDF Document Conversions and Formatting for eBooks series (both of which will be available on this site soon).

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