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From Google Books to Ebook Reader

First a general disclaimer

I wrote this guide for the simple reason that I would have loved for it to exist before I figured out how to do these things. Don’t worry about the length of this. It’s an intentionally comprehensive amount of useful stuff you might want to do. You probably don’t have to do it all. Also downloads and installations only have to be done once.

I have Windows 7 and Firefox and this guide is based on that. Probably most of this works in any sort of Windows and maybe even if you’re running Firefox in a different OS. No guarantees though and your mileage may vary.

This is not a guide for getting an entire limited view book off Google. You can only get the pages Google lets you see. Also you can only get those pages as images. If you need portions of text for citation, we’ll get to a neat trick but it’s not feasible for getting a readable text-version of a whole book.

The legality of whatever you’re doing is up to your own discretion. Most likely if you want to copy and distribute an entire book, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the law wherever you are. However, most countries allow you to legally copy a reasonable portion of a book for your own purposes.

Let’s get to it!

Do the following things – preferably in order.

  1. Open Firefox. If you don’t have it, get it here. It’s the best browser anyway.
  2. Install Greasemonkey.
  3. Install the Google Book Downloader.
  4. Install Flashgot.
  5. Restart Firefox
  6. Go to whichever book on Google Books you fancy
  7. In the upper left corner there should now be a “Download this book” option; click it.
  8. Choose the pages you want.
  9. Let it work.
  10. Highlight all the links to the pages.
  11. Right click the selection and choose “Flashgot selection” (or just press ctrl+f2)
  12. Choose the folder where you want the pages downloaded. Make things easier on yourself by choosing an empty folder. Preferably one you made specifically for this book.

You now have the book

…but unfortunately Flashgot is stupid and saves it without any file extensions. If you want, you can stop here and just rename everything to .png manually.

  1. Don’t do that though. Download and install Extension Renamer.
  2. Open Extension Renamer.
  3. Select your book directory (the empty folder in which you saved your book).
  4. In the “To:” box write “png” without the quote marks.
  5. Press go.

All your book pages are now in a reasonable format

…so if you want, you can stop here and just view them in any old photoviewer. Here are some other things you’ll probably want to do:

  1. If you want to rename them, select all the files, rightclick on the first one (it should now be called books.png), click “rename,” and type in whatever it is you want all the files to be called ending in (0). Example: Whatever(0).png – Windows should now automatically rename the subsequent files Whatever(1).png, Whatever(2).png and so on.
  2. If you want to print the book simply open MS Word (presumably Open Office works just as well), highlight all the files (pages) you want to print, and drag+drop them into Word. Be sure to drag the files with your cursor pointed at the lowest numbered file (e.g. Whatever(0).png). I know it’s silly but MS Word will assume you want the “cursor file” first. Other than that, the program is perfectly capable of arranging them in chronological order.
  3. You should now also be able to save the “book” in whichever output format you need – e.g. .doc or .pdf

Your entire book is now in a reasonable format

but hold on. It’s still in images and not in text. If that’s ok with you, just stop here. However, if you need to cite something it’s a hassle to type it all out.

  1. No worries, head over to Free OCR.
  2. Upload the image of the page you want to cite and click “send file.” Your image will be converted to plain text.

This also works for your entire book if you saved it as a pdf but unfortunately only if it doesn’t exceed 2MB. There are free OCR softwares out there without limitations. I can’t vouch for any of them though, since I haven’t tried them.

Other useful things you can do

This is useful if you just want an easy and fast way to read your book on your computer after you’ve downloaded the images. Make sure your images have the .png file extension and are all chronologically named. Highlight them all, right-click, and select “add to “New folder.rar” Name the .rar file something you like and change the file extension from .rar to .cbr

You should now be able to open and read your book as a “comic” in CDisplay.

Download and install Calibre

This is useful if you need to convert your book to some other format – e.g. so you can read it on your Kindle or  some other ebook reader. Calibre can convert both .pdf (see above) and .cbr (also above) to just about any other format. You don’t need CDisplay for Calibre to convert .cbr. Just rename the .rar file to .cbr.

The results might not be optimal since unless you had some luck with one of the free OCR softwares (again above) your book is still just images and ebook readers tend to prefer text.

If, like me, you have a Kindle I’d just go with a MS Word created pdf – no Calibre needed. It doesn’t look great but it doesn’t look worse than most pdf’s out there and it’s readable if you tilt the screen sideways.

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