Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Google to Digitize and Publish University Collections 

New academic research tools are now becoming available for folks who can't make the journey to the fine research collections of major universities. Google is working with (for now) five "prestigious universities and public libraries" to digitize and make available online selections of their collections. The initial focus is on public domain material (works which are no longer under copyright), with copyrighted text being searchable but only available for viewing in small peeks.

The current participants are Stanford University, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Oxford University and New York Public Library. Users will only be able to access the digitized books through Google searches, plus students and faculties of the institutions of origin will have full access.

Google is footing the bill for the conversion of thousands of books from the NY Public Library collection, in a pilot program that will include public domain books of wide interest. Harvard is also launching a pilot of about 40,000 texts. Univ. of Michigan is going all out and making all of their 7.4 million books available (the first of these will be available today).

This is just so cool. We're truly moving toward a time when books and research tools will be available to anyone who wants to learn. Ever wonder how Willow was able to just pull up all kinds of esoteric dark arts data by doing a little online digging? She wouldn't have been able to in the real world (perhaps Google should institute some precautions based on Willow's experiences in scanning). But the real world is moving closer to to the research world of Sunnydale. And closer to the world of Jean Luc Picard, where every book ever written on earth, every musical piece ever performed, and every piece of visual art ever created is stored in The Computer's database.

Geek life is good, and getting better.
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UPDATE (1:15 pm): NY Times has a more in-depth article on the various agreements, projected scanning rates, and projected impact on the publishing world.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:42 AM