BERLIN The Bavarian State Library, one of the biggest libraries in the German-speaking world, has agreed to participate in Google Inc.'s project to scan books from the world's great collections.
The Munich-based library, which contains around nine million volumes in total, is to make about one million books available to the Google Book Search, ranging from classics by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm.
A spokesman for the library said a large share of the books due to be scanned were German, although the sample also includes many in Italian, French, Spanish, Latin and English.
Stefan Keuchel, a spokesman for Google Germany, said on Wednesday some books will be available for download once they go online, adding that this should occur "in the next few years."
"This is a very important step for us, particularly in view of the criticism that's been leveled at the project," he said.
"And it's pleasing not just for us, but also for Google users, particularly in the German-speaking world, because the deal means that we'll be able to significantly raise the number of German books in the Google Book Search," Keuchel added.
All the items to be included are works for which the copyright has expired. In Germany, the law currently protects books for 70 years after the author's death.
Other participants in Google's project include the Complutense University of Madrid, the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the National Library of Catalonia, a number of U.S. universities and the New York Public Library.
Google is also cooperating with almost 20 local publishing houses for the newly launched Chinese version of its book search service, books.google.cn, spokeswoman Jin Cui said.
The drive to digitize major libraries was nearly derailed when authors' and publishers' groups sued Google in 2005 to block scanning of copyrighted library books, arguing that the effort might tempt consumers to stop buying printed works.
Google argues that it is creating the electronic equivalent of a library card catalog for copyrighted works and that the library project only plans to publish the full texts of out-of-copyright books in the public domain.
Among the prominent critics of the Google Book Search has been Microsoft Corp.
(Additional reporting by Sophie Taylor in Shanghai)