I recently learned that Google has made finding free legal eBooks that can be borrowed from the library easier than ever. I was curious how well it worked, so I experimented with the feature. Here is what I discovered for both desktop and mobile versions.
After entering a book title on Google, the feature appears on the right side within what is known as the Google Knowledge Graph display. Basically, there is a box on the right side of the screen next to the search results. The box contains information about the book including ratings and reviews from various websites, book summary, publication date, author, genre, awards (if any), online bookstores where it is available to be purchased and FINALLY the Borrow ebook section.
Be aware that if the book title is not available from the library, you will not see the Borrow ebook section. However, keep reading for additional search quirks.
If the eBook is available, you will see a list of libraries within your geolocated range or, in other words, libraries nearby. If the wrong libraries are displayed, you can change your location by clicking on the Edit Location link and entering your zip code or city name. The library list will then reload.
Don’t see Provo City Library listed? No problem.
Provo City Library’s eBook holdings are found within the Utah’s Online Library collection. Utah’s Online Library gives Provo City Library card holders access to both the Provo City Library eBook collection and the Utah State Library collection.
After searching, click on Utah’s Online Library to either borrow the item immediately or place a hold which will then notify you via email when the eBook is available.
Please note, to borrow free legal eBooks from the online library, you will need a Provo City Library card. Library cards from other Utah libraries can also be used to check out eBooks from Utah’s Online Library, but will not give you access to Provo City Library’s collection.
After searching Google on a mobile device, look for the block of color in the search results that shows the title and author of the book. Just below the title and author is a mini menu.
Tap on Get Book in the mini menu. Then look for Borrow ebook. This section can be found just below the list of online bookstores.Tap on Utah’s Online Library. You will then be redirected to the eBook entry for the title you entered. Here you can either borrow the item immediately or place a hold which will then notify you via email when the eBook is available.
Please note, to check out free legal eBooks from the online library, you will need a Provo City Library card. Library cards from other Utah libraries can also be used to check out eBooks from Utah’s Online Library, but will not give you access to Provo City Library’s collection.
Through trial and error, I have discovered some quirks to be aware of with this search feature.
Only OverDrive: There are other eBook collections out there including RBdigital which you also have access to with your Provo City Library card. However, Google search currently only works with OverDrive, so you will not see any results for other eBook collections.
No audiobooks: Even though Utah’s Online Library also offers free legal audiobooks to borrow and listen to, Google’s search feature only works for eBooks. No results will come up if there is an audiobook but no eBook.
Books made for the silver screen: Books made into movies or TV series don’t always return results. For example, I tried searching for Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library which is a movie and a book. The title does not return any free eBooks even though the book is available in Utah’s Online Library collection. However, a search for the second book in the series, Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Race, which does not have a movie version, does come up.
I have discovered that sometimes, adding “book” to the end of the title will help return the correct results, but not always.
Correct titles: You know how Google is great for finding something even if you can’t quite remember what it’s called? Well that doesn’t work so well when finding eBooks. I tried experimenting with variations on book titles with poor results. For example, I search for Mistborn but no eBooks came up. However, when I changed my search to Mistborn: The Final Empire, then it came up.Tip: if you can’t remember the title, search for it on Google. After finding the correct title, perform a new search.
Vague titles: Titles that are not specific enough to return good results can also be problematic. For example, Hunted. Just entering “hunted” in the search box will not return any eBook results. However, try adding “book” to the end of the title or the author’s name and you will have far better luck.
While this is a handy new, automatic feature built into Google, the results are still a little sporadic. Readers that frequently look for books by searching Google will find this a useful tool. However, if you really want to know if an eBook is available, I would recommend directly searching Utah’s Online Library (https://utahsonlinelibrary.overdrive.com/). For me, I think this is a great new feature for browsing and chancing across interesting books, but it is less useful when I am looking for something specific.