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Many of us wanted to know which book was being cited in the question How accurate is the quip: “Mongols, having already conquered half of Europe, decided the other half wasn't worth it”?

I found the answer – Mother of Demons and a link to the quote on google books. Unfortunately, SE refuses to consistently access that URL, By which I mean that I included the link in the question two or three times, and each time SE rendered a blank page (I think that the URL is so long that it wraps to a new line, splitting the URL from the numeric reference, and the result is that the numeric reference is empty.)

When I included the link below, it seemed to work. I know that google books API has been … finicky … but is there a consistent way to cite google books? Six months ago I would have used a URL shortener, but I'm no longer comfortable with the security implications of URL shorteners.

I just tried it again, omitting the space between the numeric reference and the URN: that seems to work.

But the core question is – what is the best way to link to google books?

I think the answer will have enduring value.

Note: I'm aware that it is a work of fiction; I'm citing it in part to make that point. I believe when analyzing the credibility of a quote it is important to have the source of the quote available. The original question didn't make it clear that the quote was from a work of fiction - by citing the quote that becomes clear.

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    Can you clarify what you mean by "SE refuses to consistently access that URL"? – (The URL shortener is a plague in any case. The final URL will not benefit at all and it's just an additional hop through a big data merchant "service") that'll break at any time. – LangLangC Jul 15 '18 at 21:52
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    FWIW: That happens to be a book I've read. Its a really great book, but its a work of fiction (SF in this case). I've actually even referenced a passage from an Eric Flint novel on this site before, but when you do so you should put a huge caveat prior to the reference that this is a work of fiction, and explain why its still relevant. Also, anyone interested in reading it, the full text is available on The Baen Free Library. So in this case, no Google link needed. :-) – T.E.D. Jul 16 '18 at 14:09
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    I'm often surprised to see links to Google Books (or Amazon) when the book is available in full on archive.org. Perhaps that's just me though. – sempaiscuba Jul 16 '18 at 23:42
  • Further confused; now about your note: the first version of your example Q starts with SciFi author… / Do you mean: "by citing the quote in context and linking to the source…" or a variant of that? (In my understanding the OP cited the quote but didn't 'properly' attribute it, that is: citation format incl page etc.) – LangLangC Jul 20 '18 at 21:27
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Google Books is a terrible disservice. So the frame o be challenged first needs to be rephrased to: "if you absolutely cannot find a better alternative to Google Books, then…"

Many of their books are properly OCRed and searchable, often from or also found on University of Michigan, Hathi Trust or archive.org and others. Yet, when linking to them we only get a graphical representation, excluding screen readers and seemingly arbitrary omissions depending on geography, IP or whatnot.

That alone means almost any other source is preferable to Google Books.

If you must link to this commercial entity that restricts your usage abilites, your rights and our intellectual legacy, then still try to find an alternative, freely available, with searchable text.

Use screenshots and perform an OCR yourself, try to include image alt-text etc.

Pure text is best.


While a direct link to the exact place within a text that is available digitised within Google Books seems like a great service to the reader I suspect Google is not trustworthy enough to rely on this company keeping its APIs stable forever.

That means an URL linking to Google books should strive to be as human readable as possible.

Therefore I suggest to cite specific passages in Google Books like an ordinary book: with an ID like ISBN or the proprietary Google-ID for books and optionally (or at least) including the page number:

in this case

 https://books.google.com/books?id=hk5fhp-rhsMC&pg=PT122

But keep in mind that Google books has different value for people with different IPs. Without a way to spoof that people might not be able really see the highlighted serch terms anyway.

Converting the usually "complicated for spying on you" Google-URL into this format is currently made easy by using for example the Wikipedia citation tool for Google Books. Of course, this might also always be done manually with the current format Google chose…

Speaking of geo-IP phenomena: it looks as if the .com domain always redirects 'properly' to other local domains like .hu, .ph, .de, .uk, etc.

However, the reverse seems not to be working so well. That is, using a local domain in another location might not work as expected (like clicking on a .ph domain while being in .uk) Therefore it seems advisable to always link to the .com-domain address (by just removing the localising part or substituting it with .com

[ *.google.com.ph/* to *.google.com/* or *.google.de/* to *google.com/* ]


Just copying the URL from the address bar of a browser as presented produces a rather complicated string:

https://books.google.com/books?id=hk5fhp-rhsMC&lpg=PT122&ots=02-2WO7EbP&dq=“Mongols%2C%20having%20already%20conquered%20half%20of%20Europe%2C%20decided%20the%20other%20half%20wasn%27t%20worth%20it”%3F&pg=PT122#v=onepage&q=“Mongols,%20having%20already%20conquered%20half%20of%20Europe,%20decided%20the%20other%20half%20wasn't%20worth%20it”?&f=false

But that can be simplified a bit, using the tools Google provides now.

You get either this version A:

https://books.google.com/books?id=hk5fhp-rhsMC&lpg=PT122&dq=%E2%80%9CMongols%2C%20having%20already%20conquered%20half%20of%20Europe%2C%20decided%20the%20other%20half%20wasn't%20worth%20it%E2%80%9D%3F&hl=de&pg=PT122#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CMongols,%20having%20already%20conquered%20half%20of%20Europe,%20decided%20the%20other%20half%20wasn't%20worth%20it%E2%80%9D?&f=false

or a much shorter and therefore nicer version B:

https://books.google.com/books?id=hk5fhp-rhsMC&lpg=PT122&dq=%E2%80%9CMongols%2C%20having%20already%20conquered%20half%20of%20Europe%2C%20decided%20the%20other%20half%20wasn't%20worth%20it%E2%80%9D%3F&hl=de&pg=PT122

The last option even retains the desired highlights from the search parameters. It is generated by Google when you use the "chain link" icon in the middle of the toolbar, the extreme right in the following screenshot:

enter image description here

and choose not "Paste link in IM or email" for version A;
but the second option offered: "embed" for version B.

Since the buffer is then filled with:
<iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border:0px" src="https://books.google.com/books?id=hk5fhp-rhsMC&lpg=PT122&dq=%E2%80%9CMongols%2C%20having%20already%20conquered%20half%20of%20Europe%2C%20decided%20the%20other%20half%20wasn't%20worth%20it%E2%80%9D%3F&hl=de&pg=PT122&output=embed" width=500 height=500></iframe>

You obviously need to strip that manually of the superfluous code elements:

<iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border:0px" src=" https://books.google.com/books?id=hk5fhp-rhsMC&lpg=PT122&dq=%E2%80%9CMongols%2C%20having%20already%20conquered%20half%20of%20Europe%2C%20decided%20the%20other%20half%20wasn't%20worth%20it%E2%80%9D%3F&hl=de&pg=PT122\]&output=embed" width=500 height=500></iframe>


As far as I understand the issue with URL shorteners:
Those should never be used. And those should especially never be used on this network. They are not only a potential security risk, they also add complexity and round trip time to the link, they obfuscate the destination, make locating the source by hand or on archive.org harder and are easily gone completely, when the shortener service is no longer "in service".
Those kind of links might not need to be hunted down now, but I strongly suggest to convert them into regular links whenever anyone encounters them during an edit.


The above gives methods for linking to Google books. But it remains the best way to link to books is not to link to Google books!

Therefore a little redundancy: Most older books and quite few recent books are also found on https://archive.org. Please always try to link to better sources than Google books!

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