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Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database

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  • Naveed ul Haq Hashmi
    December 14, 2004 Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database By JOHN MARKOFF and EDWARD WYATT oogle, the operator of the world s most popular Internet
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 15, 2004
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      December 14, 2004

      Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database

      oogle, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search
      service, plans to announce an agreement today with some of the
      nation's leading research libraries and Oxford University to begin
      converting their holdings into digital files that would be freely
      searchable over the Web.

      It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global
      virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research
      institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan,
      Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an
      ambitious Internet effort by various parties. The goal is to expand
      the Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material
      and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the
      world's books, scholarly papers and special collections.

      Google - newly wealthy from its stock offering last summer - has
      agreed to underwrite the projects being announced today while also
      adding its own technical abilities to the task of scanning and
      digitizing tens of thousands of pages a day at each library.

      Although Google executives declined to comment on its technology or
      the cost of the undertaking, others involved estimate the figure at
      $10 for each of the more than 15 million books and other documents
      covered in the agreements. Librarians involved predict the project
      could take at least a decade.

      Because the Google agreements are not exclusive, the pacts are almost
      certain to touch off a race with other major Internet search
      providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo. Like Google, they might
      seek the right to offer online access to library materials in return
      for selling advertising, while libraries would receive corporate help
      in digitizing their collections for their own institutional uses.

      "Within two decades, most of the world's knowledge will be digitized
      and available, one hopes for free reading on the Internet, just as
      there is free reading in libraries today," said Michael A. Keller,
      Stanford University's head librarian.

      The Google effort and others like it that are already under way,
      including projects by the Library of Congress to put selections of
      its best holdings online, are part of a trend to potentially
      democratize access to information that has long been available to
      only small, select groups of students and scholars.

      Last night the Library of Congress and a group of international
      libraries from the United States, Canada, Egypt, China and the
      Netherlands announced a plan to create a publicly available digital
      archive of one million books on the Internet. The group said it
      planned to have 70,000 volumes online by next April.

      "Having the great libraries at your fingertips allows us to build on
      and create great works based on the work of others," said Brewster
      Kahle, founder and president of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-
      based digital library that is also trying to digitize existing print

      The agreements to be announced today will allow Google to publish the
      full text of only those library books old enough to no longer be
      under copyright. For copyrighted works, Google would scan in the
      entire text, but make only short excerpts available online.

      Each agreement with a library is slightly different. Google plans to
      digitize nearly all the eight million books in Stanford's collection
      and the seven million at Michigan. The Harvard project will initially
      be limited to only about 40,000 volumes. The scanning at Bodleian
      Library at Oxford will be limited to an unspecified number of books
      published before 1900, while the New York Public Library project will
      involve fragile material not under copyright that library officials
      said would be of interest primarily to scholars.

      The trend toward online libraries and virtual card catalogs is one
      that already has book publishers scrambling to respond.

      At least a dozen major publishing companies, including some of the
      country's biggest producers of nonfiction books - the primary target
      for the online text-search efforts - have already entered ventures
      with Google and Amazon that allow users to search the text of
      copyrighted books online and read excerpts.

      Publishers including HarperCollins, the Penguin Group, Houghton
      Mifflin and Scholastic have signed up for both the Google and Amazon
      programs. The largest American trade publisher, Random House,
      participates in Amazon's program but is still negotiating with
      Google, which calls its program Google Print.

      The Amazon and Google programs work by restricting the access of
      users to only a few pages of a copyrighted book during each search,
      offering enough to help them decide whether the book meets their
      requirements enough to justify ordering the print version. Those
      features restrict a user's ability to copy, cut or print the
      copyrighted material, while limiting on-screen reading to a few pages
      at a time. Books still under copyright at the libraries involved in
      Google's new project are likely to be protected by similar

      The challenge for publishers in coming years will be to continue to
      have libraries serve as major influential buyers of their books,
      without letting the newly vast digital public reading rooms undermine
      the companies' ability to make money commissioning and publishing
      authors' work.

      From the earliest days of the printing press, book publishers were
      wary of the development of libraries at all. In many instances, they
      opposed the idea of a central facility offering free access to books
      that people would otherwise be compelled to buy.

      But as libraries developed and publishers became aware that they
      could be among their best customers, that opposition faded. Now
      publishers aggressively court librarians with advance copies of
      books, seeking positive reviews of books in library journals and
      otherwise trying to influence the opinion of the people who influence
      the reading habits of millions. Some of that promotional impulse may
      translate to the online world, publishing executives say.

      But at least initially, the search services are likely to be most
      useful to publishers whose nonfiction backlists, or catalogs of
      previously published titles, are of interest to scholars but do not
      sell regularly enough to be carried in large quantities in retail
      stores, said David Steinberger, the president and chief executive the
      Perseus Books Group, which publishes mostly nonfiction books under
      the Basic Books, PublicAffairs, Da Capo and other imprints.

      Based on his experiences with Amazon's and Google's commercial search
      services so far, Mr. Steinberger said, "I think there is minimal
      risk, or virtually no risk, of copyrighted material being misused."
      But he said he would object to a library's providing copyrighted
      material online without a license. "If you're talking about the
      instantaneous, free distribution of books, I think that would
      represent a problem," Mr. Steinberger said.

      For their part, libraries themselves will have to rethink their
      central missions as storehouses of printed, indexed material.

      "Our world is about to change in a big, big way," said Daniel
      Greenstein, university librarian for the California Digital Library
      of the University of California, which is a project to organize and
      retain existing digital materials.

      Instead of expending considerable time and money to managing their
      collections of printed materials, Mr. Greenstein said, libraries in
      the future can devote more energy to gathering information and making
      it accessible - and more easily manageable - online.

      But Paul LeClerc, the president and chief executive of the New York
      Public Library, sees Web access as an expansion of libraries' reach,
      not a replacement for physical collections. "Librarians will add a
      new dimension to their work," Mr. LeClerc said. "They will not
      abandon their mission of collecting printed material and keeping them
      for decades and even centuries."

      Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have long vowed to
      make all of the world's information accessible to anyone with a Web
      browser. The agreements to be announced today will put them a few
      steps closer to that goal - at least in terms of the English-language
      portion of the world's information. Mr. Page said yesterday that the
      project traced to the roots of Google, which he and Mr. Brin founded
      in 1998 after taking a leave from a graduate computer science program
      at Stanford where they worked on a "digital libraries" project. "What
      we first discussed at Stanford is now becoming practical," Mr. Page

      At Stanford, Google hopes to be able to scan 50,000 pages a day
      within the month, eventually doubling that rate, according to a
      person involved in the project.

      The Google plan calls for making the library materials available as
      part of Google's regular Web service, which currently has an
      estimated eight billion Web pages in its database and tens of
      millions of users a day. As with the other information on its
      service, Google will sell advertising to generate revenue from its
      library material. (In it existing Google Print program, the company
      shares advertising revenue with the participating book publishers.)

      Each library, meanwhile, will receive its own copy of the digital
      database created from that institution's holdings, which the library
      can make available through its own Web site if it chooses.

      Harvard officials said they would be happy to use the Internet to
      share their collections widely. "We have always thought of our
      libraries at Harvard as being a global resource," said Lawrence H.
      Summers, president of Harvard.

      At least initially, Google's digitizing task will be labor intensive,
      with people placing the books and documents on sophisticated scanners
      whose high-resolution cameras capture an image of each page and
      convert it to a digital file.

      Google, whose corporate campus in Mountain View, Calif., is just a
      few miles from Stanford, plans to transport books to a copying center
      it has established at its headquarters. There the books will be
      scanned and then returned to the Stanford libraries. Google plans to
      set up remote scanning operations at both Michigan and Harvard.

      The company refused to comment on the technology that it was using to
      digitize books, except to say that it was nondestructive. But
      according to a person who has been briefed on the project, Google's
      technology is more labor-intensive than systems that are already
      commercially available.

      Two small start-up companies, 4DigitalBooks of St. Aubin,
      Switzerland, and Kirtas Technologies of Victor, N.Y., are selling
      systems that automatically turn pages to capture images.

      Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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