Google to digitize 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the British Library

By on June 20, 2011, 4:30 PM

Google today announced a partnership to digitize 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the British Library's collections. Both organizations will work in partnership over the coming years to deliver this content free through Google Books and the British Library's website. Google will cover all digitization costs.

The project's goal is to digitize a huge range of printed books, pamphlets, and periodicals in a variety of major European languages. The focus will be on books dated between 1700 and 1870 which are not yet freely available in digital form online. This is the period that saw the French and Industrial Revolutions, The Battle of Trafalgar and the Crimean War, the invention of rail travel and of the telegraph, the beginning of UK income tax, and the end of slavery.

Once digitized, these items will be available for full text search, download, and reading through Google Books, plus will be searchable through the Library's website and stored in the Library's digital archive. Researchers, students and other users will have the right to view historical items from anywhere in the world as well as copy, share, and manipulate text for non-commercial purposes.

"In the nineteenth century it was an ambition of our predecessors to give everybody access to as much of the world's information as possible, to ensure that knowledge was not restricted to those who could afford private libraries," Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, said in a statement. "The way of doing it then was to buy books from the entire world and to make them available in Reading Rooms. We are delighted to be partnering with Google on this project and through this partnership believe that we are building on this proud tradition of giving access to anyone, anywhere and at any time. 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."

"What's powerful about the technology available to us today isn't just its ability to preserve history and culture for posterity, but also its ability to bring it to life in new ways," Peter Barron, Director of External Relations at Google, said in a statement. "This public domain material is an important part of the world's heritage and we're proud to be working with the British Library to open it up to millions of people in the UK and abroad."

Today's announcement follows news from last month that the search giant is killing Google News Archive, the company's newspaper archiving project. While newspapers are apparently too costly for the company to digitize, books are still very much okay. Google has so far partnered with over 40 libraries around the world.

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