An old friend who is a faculty member at another school mused to me (on Facebook!): “Actually, it has occurred to me that there really ought to be a good central place to go for scanned scholarly books that are out from under copyright…the Zygouries and Palace of Minos volumes of the world, as it were…” (My friend is an archaeologist who studies Greece.)
But there is! Google Book Search is a great place to look for scholarly books that were published in the US before 1923 (and are thus no longer covered by copyright law). The full-text is available for books in this category, and they are keyword-searchable: see, for example, Arthur Evans’ Antiquarian Researches in Illyricum (1883). Books published after 1923 are generally still under copyright, but Google Books will often have “snippets” or “previews” available (selected pages) so you can get a sneak peek at the content before looking to see if our library has the book.
The UGA Libraries also subscribe to an e-book provider, NetLibrary, that has the full-text of recent scholarly books online – about 14,000 of them. You can search our Netlibrary collection or just look in GIL – our NetLibrary books are there.
There are several other online sites that make the full text of books that are out of copyright available for free. Probably the oldest and most extensive is Project Gutenburg but there are many others – have a look and see!