Magazine article American Libraries

Google Partners with Libraries in Massive Digitization Project

Magazine article American Libraries

Google Partners with Libraries in Massive Digitization Project

Article excerpt

In a move likely to have major ramifications for the library world, Google announced December 14 that it would embark on an ambitious project to digitally scan books from the collections of five major research libraries and make them searchable online.

"Even before we started Google, we dreamed of making the incredible breadth of information that librarians so lovingly organize searchable online," said Google co-founder Larry Page. "Today we're pleased to announce this program to digitize the collections of these amazing libraries so that every Google user can search them instantly."

The libraries involved are those of Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford Universities; the University of Michigan; and New York Public Library. Michigan and Stanford will allow all their holdings--some 7 million titles at each institution--to be digitized, while Harvard is limiting its participation to 40,000 randomly selected titles in what it views as a pilot program. Oxford will contribute its 19th-century collections, and NYPL will offer a portion of its public domain titles.

Once the works are entered into Google's database, searchers will be able to access the full text of older books that are in the public domain. For titles still under copyright, only short excerpts will be made available online. Each library will receive a copy of the database Google creates from its holdings, which it can make available to its users.

Stanford's books will be scanned at Google's nearby headquarters in Mountain View, California, while the company will establish remote scanning operations at Harvard and Michigan. The December 14 New York Times said that while Google officials refused to discuss the price tag for the project, some involved estimated that it would cost $10 to scan each of the 15 million documents set for digitization, and that the process could take a decade or more. The company raised billions of dollars with an initial public stock offering last summer.

The libraries' deals with Google are not exclusive, and some predicted that the announcement would prompt other internet search providers such as Amazon, Yahoo, and Microsoft to develop similar plans. Google and Amazon already allow searchers to view limited samples from copyrighted books.

NYPL President Paul LeClerc said his library is participating in the project "because it is central to our mission--making our collections democratically accessible to a global audience, free of charge. Without Google's assistance, the cost of digitizing our books--in both time and dollars--would be prohibitive. …

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