The British Library (the noble institution where I happen to work) has been engaged for some time in a major project with Microsoft digitising some 100,000 books from the nineteenth century. Around 30,000 of these have now been made public available through Microsoft’s Live Search facility (to UK users only). I haven’t investigated this collection to see what possible texts on moving images it might contain, but the news has drawn my attention to Live Search as research source, which I’d quite overlooked.
You will find many digitised historical texts there, as well as current texts where there is limited access (e.g. to 10% of the content), much as you do with Google Books. In truth, the two resources offer much the same results and extras, but I find Live Search superior for the clarity of layout, ease of navigation, the linkages offered, and the word searching. Click in a search term such as ‘cinematograph’ – 1,860 hits – and for each title you get the book record, publication information, hyperlinks to where the search term appears in the digitised text, links to World Cat (if you want to find it in a library somewhere), and where available the opportunity to download the book from the Internet Archive. It is this latter option that particularly appeals, because it offers a far better means to search through texts on the Internet Archive than the Internet Archive provides itself (there you can only search titles and a limited synopsis). Hence many more titles turn up with relevant material for early film studies, including texts not directly about the movies but which have handy incidental information. I’ll be bringing you the results of some of these in future posts.
Update (May 2008): Microsoft has just announced that it has withdrawn Live Search Books, as well as winding down its book digitisation programme. More information here. Sorry.