Google Books – Supercharge Your Maritime Career

John Konrad
Total Views: 3
July 4, 2009

Google book icon by usc

For the past few years thousands of trucks have been showing up at Google’s campus, discharging piles of books and picking up yesterday’s delivery. In what is now called Google’s Moonshot, the reason behind this strange occurrence was recently revealed…. Google Books.

The NY Times gives us the background of the project:

Google Book Search is the ambitious plan to digitize every book — famous or not, in any language, published anywhere on earth — found in the world’s libraries, as part of the company’s core mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Beginning in 2002 as a “secret books project,” according to an official history at the Google site, Google Book Search has become a planned multibillion-dollar effort that has had to overcome many obstacles, both the sheer effort of scanning so many pages of text as well as conforming to copyright laws.

So what does this mean to the average mariner? Quite simply, instant access to millions of pages of text filled with nautical know-how.

To show you the power of this technology let’s take a look at a simple topic, Celestial Navigation. Go ahead and click the link. With one simple search term you have instant access to 3,120 books on the topic. Now try advanced search! Let’s go a step further. To find books you can search in real time  select “Limited preview and full view” or, to find books you can download, select “Full View only”.

Now try American Practical Navigator in the title and include the author (Bowditch)… LINK. 560 editions of this famous text. What the latest edition? Use the date search again and presto… here it is!

Now google understands that most people don’t want to learn celestial navigation by reading an ebook, we want the real thing! So on the left hand column google gives links to retailers and  find a library. Since this was developed by google it is, of course, smart. The “find a library” link, for example, not only lists all libraries that carry the title but also looks up you location and finds the nearest library to you!

And if the text itself is the problem (Bowditch isn’t exactly easy reading) then look at the “related books” and “common terms and phrases” section of each book’s “Overview” (example). Within a few clicks I had access to a few great books like Duttons and Hobbs.

Advance Book Search Samples

Advanced Search – Publication Date

If your are looking for information on Dynamic Positioning systems, you will see the first entry is from 1990 which is likely to do you more harm than good but do an advance search and enter 2005-BLANK as the date and the results will all be of great value.

Conversely, if you were looking for knowledge of Damage Control you might be disappointed by the cursory treatment of the subject found in modern text. Instead try Navy Damage control 1941-1951 and you have access to true experience in the subject.

Advanced Operators

Google has a list of advanced operators that are a huge help during traditional web searches for example “ google search” should return this page along with all other google search related articles we have written.

Google books has a similar feature. As an example let us use the inauthor tag to search for gCaptain contributor inauthor:”Leonard Lambert”.

Instant Mobile Information
Away from your desk and looking for information in a book? Now problem, google books can be found on your iPhone/iPod or on any mobile device by visiting:

Sometimes Google web is still better.

As much as we love Google Books it does have some faults. Some books I have needed were difficult to find while new maritime books like gCaptain contributor Bob Couttie’s “Chew The Bones” was simply not listed. No worries though, just write down the ISBN number from your friend’s copy and do a traditional google search like this: ““ISBN 1442142596” and it will show up.

Bonus Tip – Google Images

If you are looking for pictures then your better of visiting Google Images. Many of you already use this daily but did you know about their new advanced search functionality? Try Lifeboat Photos then change the advance search to “extra large” for high resolution photos, “clip art” for images to use in your powerpoint presentation or, my favorite, “line drawings” for detailed specs.

Lastly are you trying to find a person? If you wanted to find out the key players in a recent ship hijacking you could type “Maersk Alabama” into Google photo but narrow down the search to “face” and you will get people rather than images of the ship.


Here at gCaptain we are really excited by the possibilities. Not only to help us study for the next license exam but to do research of all sorts. So here’s a challenge… Use Google search to find a book published before 1900 to look for a seamanship technique that has been lost in time. The catch? It must be still relevant today.

The person who submits the best tip (with book/page reference) to THIS FORUM THREAD will win a gCaptain t-shirt.


How else will this new service unlock the knowledge you need to advance your maritime career? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Note: This article was sponsored by gCaptain Job’s. To find the job that will advance your maritime career visit gCaptain’s Maritime Jobs Board today!

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