Google brings assets of major libraries online

Stacks of hard-to-find books are being scanned into Google’s widely used Internet search engine in its attempt to establish a massive online reading room for five major libraries, the Associated Press reported.

Material from the New York public library as well as libraries at four universities — Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Oxford — will be indexed on Mountain View, CA-based Google under the ambitious initiative.

The Michigan and Stanford libraries are the only two so far to agree to submit all their material to Google’s scanners. The New York library is allowing Google to include a small portion of its books no longer covered by copyright, while Harvard is confining its participation to 40,000 volumes so it can gauge how well the process works. Oxford wants Google to scan all its books originally published before 1901.

On the issue of protecting copyrighted books, Google will follow its current policy with new books — that is it will only allow users to view the bibliographies or other snippets of copyrighted books scanned from the libraries. The search engine will provide unrestricted access to all material in the public domain — work no longer covered by copyrights.

Librarians are also excited about the prospect of creating a digital record for the reams of valuable material written long before computers were conceived.

Scanning the library books figures to be a daunting task, even for Google, whose online index of eight billion Web pages already has revolutionized the way people look for information. Michigan’s library alone contains seven million of its library volumes — about 132mi of books.

Google plans to get the job done at Michigan within six years.

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