You have probably heard about Google's plan to digitize parts of the
book collection of partnering libraries (see excerpts from the Dec. 14
NYT article further below). You probably also wondered about the format
in which these books will be made available. A discussion about this
question has started on the EASI forum. The following URL will lead you
to the respective discussion thread:
Happy holidays everyone,
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
From: Schmetzke, Axel
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2004 8:58 AM
To: Library Faculty List; Library Classified Staff List
Subject: Major Google press announcement
From today's NY Times...
December 14, 2004
Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database
By JOHN MARKOFF and EDWARD WYATT
oogle, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search service,
plans to announce an agreement today with some of the nation's leading
research libraries and Oxford University to begin converting their
holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the
It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global
virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research
institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan,
Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an
ambitious Internet effort by various parties. The goal is to expand the
Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and
create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's
books, scholarly papers and special collections.
Google - newly wealthy from its stock offering last summer - has agreed
to underwrite the projects being announced today while also adding its
own technical abilities to the task of scanning and digitizing tens of
thousands of pages a day at each library.
Although Google executives declined to comment on its technology or the
cost of the undertaking, others involved estimate the figure at $10 for
each of the more than 15 million books and other documents covered in
the agreements. Librarians involved predict the project could take at
least a decade.
Because the Google agreements are not exclusive, the pacts are almost
certain to touch off a race with other major Internet search providers
like Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo. Like Google, they might seek the right
to offer online access to library materials in return for selling
advertising, while libraries would receive corporate help in digitizing
their collections for their own institutional uses.
"Within two decades, most of the world's knowledge will be digitized and
available, one hopes for free reading on the Internet, just as there is
free reading in libraries today," said Michael A. Keller, Stanford
University's head librarian.
The Google effort and others like it that are already under way,
including projects by the Library of Congress to put selections of its
best holdings online, are part of a trend to potentially democratize
access to information that has long been available to only small, select
groups of students and scholars.
Last night the Library of Congress and a group of international
libraries from the United States, Canada, Egypt, China and the
Netherlands announced a plan to create a publicly available digital
archive of one million books on the Internet. The group said it planned
to have 70,000 volumes online by next April.
"Having the great libraries at your fingertips allows us to build on and
create great works based on the work of others," said Brewster Kahle,
founder and president of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based
digital library that is also trying to digitize existing print
The agreements to be announced today will allow Google to publish the
full text of only those library books old enough to no longer be under
copyright. For copyrighted works, Google would scan in the entire text,
but make only short excerpts available online.
Each agreement with a library is slightly different. Google plans to
digitize nearly all the eight million books in Stanford's collection and
the seven million at Michigan. The Harvard project will initially be
limited to only about 40,000 volumes. The scanning at Bodleian Library
at Oxford will be limited to an unspecified number of books published
before 1900, while the New York Public Library project will involve
fragile material not under copyright that library officials said would
be of interest primarily to scholars.
The trend toward online libraries and virtual card catalogs is one that
already has book publishers scrambling to respond.
At least a dozen major publishing companies, including some of the
country's biggest producers of nonfiction books - the primary target for
the online text-search efforts - have already entered ventures with
Google and Amazon that allow users to search the text of copyrighted
books online and read excerpts.
Publishers including HarperCollins, the Penguin Group, Houghton Mifflin
and Scholastic have signed up for both the Google and Amazon programs.
The largest American trade publisher, Random House, participates in
Amazon's program but is still negotiating with Google, which calls its
program Google Print.
The Amazon and Google programs work by restricting the access of users
to only a few pages of a copyrighted book during each search, offering
enough to help them decide whether the book meets their requirements
enough to justify ordering the print version. Those features restrict a
user's ability to copy, cut or print the copyrighted material, while
limiting on-screen reading to a few pages at a time. Books still under
copyright at the libraries involved in Google's new project are likely
to be protected by similar restrictions.
The challenge for publishers in coming years will be to continue to have
libraries serve as major influential buyers of their books, without
letting the newly vast digital public reading rooms undermine the
companies' ability to make money commissioning and publishing authors'
From the earliest days of the printing press, book publishers were wary
of the development of libraries at all. In many instances, they opposed
the idea of a central facility offering free access to books that people
would otherwise be compelled to buy.
But as libraries developed and publishers became aware that they could
be among their best customers, that opposition faded. Now publishers
aggressively court librarians with advance copies of books, seeking
positive reviews of books in library journals and otherwise trying to
influence the opinion of the people who influence the reading habits of
millions. Some of that promotional impulse may translate to the online
world, publishing executives say.
But at least initially, the search services are likely to be most useful
to publishers whose nonfiction backlists, or catalogs of previously
published titles, are of interest to scholars but do not sell regularly
enough to be carried in large quantities in retail stores, said David
Steinberger, the president and chief executive the Perseus Books Group,
which publishes mostly nonfiction books under the Basic Books,
PublicAffairs, Da Capo and other imprints.
Based on his experiences with Amazon's and Google's commercial search
services so far, Mr. Steinberger said, "I think there is minimal risk,
or virtually no risk, of copyrighted material being misused." But he
said he would object to a library's providing copyrighted material
online without a license. "If you're talking about the instantaneous,
free distribution of books, I think that would represent a problem," Mr.
For their part, libraries themselves will have to rethink their central
missions as storehouses of printed, indexed material.
"Our world is about to change in a big, big way," said Daniel
Greenstein, university librarian for the California Digital Library of
the University of California, which is a project to organize and retain
existing digital materials.
Instead of expending considerable time and money to managing their
collections of printed materials, Mr. Greenstein said, libraries in the
future can devote more energy to gathering information and making it
accessible - and more easily manageable - online.
But Paul LeClerc, the president and chief executive of the New York
Public Library, sees Web access as an expansion of libraries' reach, not
a replacement for physical collections. "Librarians will add a new
dimension to their work," Mr. LeClerc said. "They will not abandon their
mission of collecting printed material and keeping them for decades and
Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have long vowed to make
all of the world's information accessible to anyone with a Web browser.
The agreements to be announced today will put them a few steps closer to
that goal - at least in terms of the English-language portion of the
world's information. Mr. Page said yesterday that the project traced to
the roots of Google, which he and Mr. Brin founded in 1998 after taking
a leave from a graduate computer science program at Stanford where they
worked on a "digital libraries" project. "What we first discussed at
Stanford is now becoming practical," Mr. Page said.
At Stanford, Google hopes to be able to scan 50,000 pages a day within
the month, eventually doubling that rate, according to a person involved
in the project.
The Google plan calls for making the library materials available as part
of Google's regular Web service, which currently has an estimated eight
billion Web pages in its database and tens of millions of users a day.
As with the other information on its service, Google will sell
advertising to generate revenue from its library material. (In it
existing Google Print program, the company shares advertising revenue
with the participating book publishers.)
Each library, meanwhile, will receive its own copy of the digital
database created from that institution's holdings, which the library can
make available through its own Web site if it chooses.
Harvard officials said they would be happy to use the Internet to share
their collections widely. "We have always thought of our libraries at
Harvard as being a global resource," said Lawrence H. Summers, president
At least initially, Google's digitizing task will be labor intensive,
with people placing the books and documents on sophisticated scanners
whose high-resolution cameras capture an image of each page and convert
it to a digital file.
Google, whose corporate campus in Mountain View, Calif., is just a few
miles from Stanford, plans to transport books to a copying center it has
established at its headquarters. There the books will be scanned and
then returned to the Stanford libraries. Google plans to set up remote
scanning operations at both Michigan and Harvard.
The company refused to comment on the technology that it was using to
digitize books, except to say that it was nondestructive. But according
to a person who has been briefed on the project, Google's technology is
more labor-intensive than systems that are already commercially
Two small start-up companies, 4DigitalBooks of St. Aubin, Switzerland,
and Kirtas Technologies of Victor, N.Y., are selling systems that
automatically turn pages to capture images.
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