On Demand Books: How to Acquire Them

While I did not go to school to become a historian, I’ve always loved history and 9 times out of 10 it winds up playing an important role in what I do, be it my queer studies or simply fan projects. It may not come as a surprise, considering my recent posts about “The Terror,” that I have fallen down  a research rabbit hole. The sexy thing about working with texts from the 1800s is that sometimes they’re freely available to read online, the unsexy thing is that I vastly prefer reading hard copy books and don’t always do well reading books on a computer screen. Enter on demand book printing. 

Google books has an option that allows you to find a bookstore with on demand printing services to print public domain books that also let you to order online. The availability of these books does depend on things like what stores are currently offering services, but so far I have acquired two books this way to great success. “Lieut.  John Irving, a Memorial Sketch with Letters” edited by B. Bell (John Irving was a lieutenant aboard HMS Terror during the ill-fated Franklin expedition) and “Passages From the Life of a Naval Officer” by Edward Philips Charlewood (BFF of Commander James Fitzjames, captain of HMS Erebus on the Franklin expedition).

I had used Google books before, but had not known this magical secret. So I am going to take you through  the steps I took, so that you too can acquire old out of print books. I’m going to use “Passages from the Life of a Naval Officer” to take us through the steps.

Step one: Google your book and find the Google books listing.

Step two: Once you’ve clicked that link you should see a page like this:

Now head over to the bar on the left  hand side of the screen and click the blue link that says “Get this book in print”

This will lead to a pop up menu, where you can then select “On Demand Books,” which is the second  option on the list.

Step three: Once you’ve selected “On Demand Books” you will be brought to the Espresso Book Machine page. Where you can select a book store.

I’ve been using Schuler Books in Michigan, because they’ve given me the best price with book cost and shipping, but another location might work better for you. 

Once you’ve made your choice hit  “Get it”

Step four: Add that book to  your cart and check out!

Once you’ve reached this stage, if  you realize that the shipping costs don’t work for you, backtrack to step three and pick another option! (Shipping costs were why I went with Schuler Books over the Harvard Bookstore, even though the listing price for the Harvard Bookstore was cheaper.)

This isn’t foolproof, the book I tried to first use for this tutorial, didn’t have any print on demand options despite it being published in the 1700s, which was sad. However, if you prefer hard copies to ebooks or have trouble reading on screens, this might be a good easy way to get a hard copy of a book you want or need. 

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