British Library to make 250,000 more titles available online in Google Books project
The British Library collection is about to become even more accessible thanks to a project it is undertaking with Google to digitize 40 million pages from its collection, dating back to 1700.
The plan will see 250,000 out-of-print titles from the British Library collection scanned, digitized and made fully readable and searchable on Google Books and stored in the British Library’s digital archive. Google is covering the costs of the project, which will cover books, pamphlets and periodicals published between 1700 and 1870.
It builds on an earlier project where the British Library worked with Microsoft to digitize 65,000 books from the 19th century, some of which are now available as iPad apps.
Among the first works to be digitized by Google are a paper about ‘underwater seafaring’ – or submarines as we now know them, The Natural History of the Hippopotamus, or River Horse, and a pamphlet about the rights of women and Marie-Antoinette.
What’s amazing about this project is how it ties in with the founding principals of the British Library, which already has a policy of open access to its collection.
Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, said: “In the 19th 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.”
Google’s book digitization plans have alarmed some quarters of the publishing industry, leading to the formation of the Open Book Alliance – it does not dispute the value of digitizing out-of-print (but still in copyright) books, but insists there needs to be competition.
But there is widespread support for deals such as this. Professor Colin Jones, President of the Royal Historical Society and Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “There is no doubt that the digitisation of this unique material will greatly benefit the research process. Academics are increasingly using new technologies at their disposal to search for innovative ways of investigating historical material to enable us to probe new questions and find alternative patterns of investigation. Digitisation gives us the freedom to not only do this quickly and remotely, but also enhances the quality and depth of the original.”
Google has now teamed up with 40 libraries and a newspaper archive holder to digitize collections.