December 14, 2004

Google Library

by Scott Rettberg · , 12:13 am

The New York Times reports that Google has forged an agreement with Oxford, Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library to digitize and add to its database all of the out of copyright holdings of each library. The Library of Congress and a group of international libraries from the United States, Canada, Egypt, China and the Netherlands have also announced a plan to create a publicly available digital archive of one million books on the Internet. Pretty exciting news for public knowledge.

13 Responses to “Google Library”

  1. Malcolm Ryan Says:

    An excellent and laudable idea, but I’m still disappointed. When I saw the title “Google Library” I thought: “So I’ll be able to use Google to find a book in any of my local libraries!” Now _that_ would be nice.


  2. scott Says:

    It’s huge if you just consider all of the English literature that’s now out of copyright. One of the most persistent and accurate critiques of the Internet has been that it’s mostly bad information, that it provides an illusion of containing all of human knowledge, while mostly containing contemporary idle talk. A lot of the value of this will depend on its implementation, but hell, most of human knowledge to date is out of copyright. Using Google to find a book in your local library probably isn’t far off, that’s more a matter of linking existing databases. In my book this is bigger. I’ll be able to Google all those books my local library threw away 50 years ago.

  3. mark Says:

    Any idea how big this is? Are we talking 10,000 books? 100,000? A million? Ten million?

    (For reference, Project Gutenberg has about 13,000 books.)

  4. nick Says:

    I read in one news story that “the library will get a digital copy of every book scanned,” which is reassuring. But still, I hope that these free texts aren’t hoarded. Yes, they’re in the public domain, but that doesn’t mean that Google and the libraries that offered books for scanning will be eager to have other organizations mirror the whole set of them. Google now has the only massive database of Usenet postings, which the company purchased from Deja (previously DejaNews). As we know, it’s lots of copies – not all hosted by the same organization – that keeps stuff safe.

  5. scott Says:

    Agreed. It would be nightmarish if Google created the only digital copy of the books which were then made proprietary. But call me Pollyanish — better Google than Microsoft.

  6. scott Says:

    Here are links to the announcements at Stanford and Michigan libraries. The U-M announcement gets more specific:

    Google will digitally scan and make searchable virtually the entire collection of the U-M library. A person looking for information will gain the extraordinary capability to use Google to locate and read the full text of printed works that are out of copyright. For works in copyright, a search will point the way to the existence of relevant volumes by returning a snippet of text, along with information that identifies publishers or libraries where the work can be found.

  7. S H B Khamis Says:

    This is great and there could be nothing better than this .. but does this mean that all these books will not be bought any more ? thats outrageous..what about the copyright ?

  8. nick Says:

    “Printed works that are out of copyright,” such as the plays of William Shakespeare, the U.S. Constitution, Moby Dick, etc., have no copyright protection at all, so in those cases outrage wouldn’t be very well-founded, unless you just want to bemoan that our “ownership society” doesn’t extend corporate control over the text of the U.S. Constitution.

    I’ll leave as an exercise the contemplation of whether anyone still buys printed copies of the plays of William Shakespeare, the U.S. Constitution, Moby Dick, etc. …

  9. sharda mishra Says:

    this would be a great idea,but then what about the book stores and copyright protection.

    Any way this will be good enough for the people and students who are realy fond of reading good and informative books but are unable to buy one due to financial crises.
    Thanks to google

  10. nick Says:

    At the risk of sounding rude, are these comments coming from some sort of broken spam robot, from a strange troll, or from people who can’t read?

    what about the book stores and copyright protection

    In case it somehow wasn’t clear: Bookstores will still exist, and copyright will exist as well, “protecting” whatever works were previously covered by copyright and restricting people’s access to them as it always has.

    As Scott wrote at the very beginning, Google’s agreement is to digitize the out of copyright holdings, that is, books that were published so long ago that their copyright protection has expired.

  11. scott Says:

    That’s right, Google has yet to roll out the Google Razer, a bot (or “intelligent agent” in internet parlance) which will systematically bulldoze all bookstores and reverse acts of Congress. But trust me, it’s in the works. Bookstore you don’t like? Just Razoogle it.

  12. Alfred Zamarripa Says:

    Great idea and project. As a 72 yr. live in, this will greatly be utilized. I hope this idea is expanded to other countries,i.e. South America. AZ

  13. michael Says:

    There’s a nice article in the recent MIT Technology Review about the Google digitization efforts. The article explores what effect mass digitization of books could have on existing libraries, as well as the business and legal issues involved in making books available on the web. It looks like initially the digitized books will be used to augment the current Google Print program:

    “Exactly how readers will be able to use the material, however, is still a bit foggy. Google will give each participating library a copy of the books it has digitized while keeping another for itself. Initially, Google will use its copy to augment its existing Google Print program, which mixes relevant snippets from recently published books into the usual results returned by its Web search tool. A user who clicks on a Google Print result is presented with an image of the book page containing his or her keyword, along with links to the sites of retailers selling the print version of the book and keyword-related ads sold to the highest bidders through Google’s AdSense program.”

    Eventually Google may make the text of out-of-copyright books available:

    “In fact, Google may put the entire texts of these public-­domain materials online itself. In the future, Google could even use those materials to create a kind of literary equivalent of the Web, says Wojcicki.”

    The article also mentions the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, which discusses free speech and intellectual property issues.

    “Chilling Effects aims to help you understand the protections that the First Amendment and intellectual property laws give to your online activities. We are excited about the new opportunities the Internet offers individuals to express their views, parody politicians, celebrate their favorite movie stars, or criticize businesses. But we’ve noticed that not everyone feels the same way. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to “chill” legitimate activity.

    The website offers background material and explanations of the law for people whose websites deal with topics such as Fan Fiction, Copyright, Domain Names and Trademarks, Anonymous Speech, and Defamation.”

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