Monday, December 13, 2004

Google Enables the Digital Library

Complete digitization of books in and out of print has been a pipe dream for researchers and librarians for many years, but there has always been a major stumbling block--money! Now technology and the money generated by the very successful Google IPO will be used to further this dream of wide access to the world's knowledge contained in those authoritative works. Google has announced partnerships with major university libraries at Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, and the University of Michigan, as well as the New York Public Library to digitize their collections. This is no small task, since Michigan's library alone contains 7 million library volumes representing 132 miles of books, and will require about six years to scan. Even with vast improvements in scanning technology, this is still a laborious process to get so many books into electronic form. Searching this volume of information will be challenging even for Google technology, and will likely force new features.

It is significant that the emphasis is on scholarly and out of print books which have essentially been unavailable, except to those few who could travel and study collections. Now, all these books will be searchable, though the full copy may not be readily available due to copyright restrictions. But there is another piece which solves that problem with OCLC WorldCat Project with library holdings. So ideally as a researcher, I could search Google Books, locate the libraries who owned the book and checkout the ebook to do my reading, all from my laptap....ah, the scholar's ideal!

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