December 14, 2004 12:13 PM PST
Google adds major libraries to its database
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of material or promote the purchase of books on third-party sites such as Amazon.com, all of which Google said it plans to do. The company said that at first, it will only display biographical information for copyrighted works.
For books in the public domain--books no longer protected by copyright--Google will allow people to search and read the entirety of the work. Oxford, for example, has agreed to let Google scan all of its books published on and before 1900.
The New York Public Library has agreed to a pilot program with Google, granting rights to scan an undisclosed number of books. Stanford and the University of Michigan have given Google the go-ahead to digitize their entire libraries, which Google estimated at 7 million volumes each.
William Gosling, librarian at the University of Michigan, said he expects it will take Google about six years to digitize its 7 million volumes, which do not include special collections, papers or manuscripts. Before this project, the university was scanning roughly 5,000 titles a year on its own, but now Google will digitize hundreds of thousands of volumes a year, he said. At the end of the project the university will have a complete digital rendition for its own use.
Google is underwriting the cost of the project for each library. Gosling said Google is using special equipment to take digital photos of book pages as they're turned, without having to take pages apart.
Many universities tout exclusive collections of books or letters, and for this reason, Google may also run into trouble obtaining clearances down the road to meet its goals. Harvard's Kosewski said that its test is only with a small number of books and that it would require an entirely new set of considerations if the university were to grant Google or others the ability to scan such works.
"The potential to serve people worldwide is without question," Kosewski said. "We have to ensure that the collections can be taken very good care of."
Google's project coincides with another academic pursuit. The company only recently introduced Google Scholar, a service for searching academic papers such as theses and abstracts. A commercial outfit that sells access to similar materials recently sued Google over its new program.
The library project builds on Google's previously released print service, which when launched, focused largely on digitizing works from publishers, including Random House and Knopf Publishing Group. The company recently invited all publishers to scan their books for inclusion in the index.
The service lets Web surfers call up brief excerpts from books, critic reviews, bibliographic and author's notes and, in some cases, a picture of the book jacket.
Google makes money from the service by displaying related ads alongside book text, and the company shares the majority of the ad revenue with publishers.
Rivals are jockeying for similar utility. Microsoft, for example, has built encyclopedia answers from its Encarta software into search results for its new proprietary engine. Last year, Yahoo began a content-acquisition project to digitize more searchable material. And Amazon features a search-inside-the-book tool so that people can browse works digitally before buying.
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