Tuesday, June 21, 2011

British Library Collection Will Be Added To Google Books

Google Relevant Products/Services plans to add an additional 250,000 titles to its Google Books online service by digitizing up to 40 million pages of content from the London-based British Library collection. Google's partnership demonstrates that despite recent legal setbacks, new CEO Larry Page hasn't abandoned his long-term vision of scanning every book on the planet and making it freely available online.

Last March, New York District Court Judge Denny Chin rejected a proposed $125 million settlement between Google and the representatives of publishers and authors for Google to copy and distribute materials still protected by copyright laws. Among other things, Chin found fault with Google's unilateral decision to engage in "wholesale, blatant copying" without prior permission.

This time around, Google will be sticking to titles dating between 1700 and 1870, and therefore no longer copyright-protected. Moreover, all materials that Google scans from the library's collection will be made available online, noted British Library spokesperson Miki Lentin. "The project will be done over a period of several years [and] the complete text will be available for all to access," Lentin said.

Going To an Undisclosed Location

According to the British Library, the books will be taken to an undisclosed location for digital scanning by Google employees. The multiyear project is expected to be a bonanza for researchers covering the period from the French revolution to the end of slavery.

"Our aim is to provide perpetual access to this historical material, and we hope that our collections, coupled with Google's know-how, will enable us to achieve this aim," said British Library Chief Executive Dame Lynne Brindley.

Sometimes modern book publishers release an out-of-print title from the 19th century, but Lentin doesn't expect this will have any effect on the availability of the British Library titles selected. "I don't think so, as we will be scanning the originals," Lentin said.

Though Google will not earn revenue directly from the British Library books, the effort will eventually benefit the company indirectly by encouraging more search activity once the material becomes available online. Meanwhile, the search giant continues to build an even more powerful platform for providing Google Books users with access to the 15 million books Google has already scanned since 2004.

Building Synergy

Last December, Google introduced an e-book Web Reader app that is compatible with all major PC web browsers. The software is also available for mobile Relevant Products/Services devices running Android and Apple's iOS, and for dedicated e-readers from Barnes & Noble and Sony.

More recently, the search giant made it easy for users to highlight any word or phrase within a text to look up a definition or even translate foreign-language content into the reader's native language. "You can select words in Google eBooks and look up their definitions, translate them, or search for them elsewhere in the book from within the Google eBooks Web Reader -- without losing your page or even looking away," noted Google Books software engineer Derek Lei in a blog.

Additionally, Google recently begun emulating Amazon.com by offering retailers, bloggers, book publishers, and web sites based in the U.S. the opportunity to earn revenue by participating in a new Google eBooks affiliates program. "Affiliates can link to Google eBooks on their sites for any of the hundreds of thousands of titles available for sale, earning a commission for referring sales to the Google eBookstore," noted Google Books team Product Manager Pratip Banerji in a recent blog.

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