Google signs up British Library to books project

LONDON Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:23pm EDT

Google Inc's logo is seen at an office in Seoul in this May 3, 2011 file photograph. REUTERS/Truth Leem/Files

Google Inc's logo is seen at an office in Seoul in this May 3, 2011 file photograph.

Credit: Reuters/Truth Leem/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - Google plans to digitize a quarter of a million books from the British Library's collections covering a period from the French Revolution to the end of slavery as part of its ambitious books project.

The search engine giant has already scanned 13 million books through partnerships with more than 40 libraries around the world, which it makes available through its search results.

The British Library project involves a selection of books published between 1700 and 1870, including feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette and an account of a stuffed hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange.

Google will bear the costs of digitization, and the items will then be available for full-text search, download and reading through Google Books as well as being searchable through the British Library's website and stored in its digital archive.

Google does not make any money from its library partnerships, but says the inclusion of material from books that have never been published online enriches its search results.

"Our aim at Google has always been to give people as much access to the world's information as is possible," Peter Barron, Google's head of external relations, told Reuters on Monday.

In Europe, Google only scans out-of-copyright books but its practice of scanning all books of its U.S. library partners has landed it in trouble with U.S. authors and publishers, who filed a lawsuit against Google in 2005 that is not yet settled.

Google was offering excerpts of books online without the permission of copyright holders, putting the onus on authors and rights holders to claim payments or to voice their objections.

The British Library works with a variety of partners and aims to have much of its collection of 150 million items online and available to the public by 2020.

A previous partnership with Microsoft resulted in the digitization of 65 million 19th century books, some of which are now available through an app for Apple's iPad launched earlier this month.

British Library Chief Executive Lynne Brindley told Reuters: "You can see we're on a long journey. This represents another significant milestone but there are plenty more to go."

(Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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