And another article on the big news of the day, forwarded from
On the front page of the online New York Times this morning; also in the
Chronicle of Higher Education.
Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database
December 14, 2004
By JOHN MARKOFF and EDWARD WYATT
Google, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search
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
that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the
New York Public Library is a major stride in an ambitious Internet
by various parties. The goal is to expand the Web beyond its current
valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card
and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and
Google - newly wealthy from its stock offering last summer - has agreed
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
agreements. Librarians involved predict the project could take at least
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,
projects by the Library of Congress to put selections of its best
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
from the United States, Canada, Egypt, China and the Netherlands
a plan to create a publicly available digital archive of one million
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
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
Oxford will be limited to an unspecified number of books published
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
and Amazon that allow users to search the text of copyrighted books
and read excerpts.
Publishers including HarperCollins, the Penguin Group, Houghton Mifflin
and Scholastic have signed up for both the Google and Amazon programs.
largest American trade publisher, Random House, participates in Amazon's
program but is still negotiating with Google, which calls its program
The Amazon and Google programs work by restricting the access of users
only a few pages of a copyrighted book during each search, offering
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
the libraries involved in Google's new project are likely to be
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
the development of libraries at all. In many instances, they opposed the
idea of a central facility offering free access to books that people
otherwise be compelled to buy.
But as libraries developed and publishers became aware that they could
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,
virtually no risk, of copyrighted material being misused." But he said
would object to a library's providing copyrighted material online
a license. "If you're talking about the instantaneous, free distribution
of books, I think that would represent a problem," Mr. Steinberger said.
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
university librarian for the California Digital Library of the
of California, which is a project to organize and retain existing
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
Library, sees Web access as an expansion of libraries' reach, not a
replacement for physical collections. "Librarians will add a new
to their work," Mr. LeClerc said. "They will not abandon their mission
collecting printed material and keeping them for decades and even
Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have long vowed to make
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
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
of Google, which he and Mr. Brin founded in 1998 after taking a leave
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
month, eventually doubling that rate, according to a person involved in
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.
with the other information on its service, Google will sell advertising
generate revenue from its library material. (In it existing Google Print
program, the company shares advertising revenue with the participating
Each library, meanwhile, will receive its own copy of the digital
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,
people placing the books and documents on sophisticated scanners whose
high-resolution cameras capture an image of each page and convert it to
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
returned to the Stanford libraries. Google plans to set up remote
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
a person who has been briefed on the project, Google's technology is
labor-intensive than systems that are already commercially available.
Two small start-up companies, 4DigitalBooks of St. Aubin, Switzerland,
Kirtas Technologies of Victor, N.Y., are selling systems that
automatically turn pages to capture images.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company