University Library joins Google Book Search
The University Library and Google have agreed on a six-year contract to make the full text of about one million books from the library available online through Google Book Search.
The partnership, which has been in development for about 18 months, is led by University Librarian Karin Trainer, Deputy University Librarian Marvin Bielawski and University Provost Christopher Eisgruber '83. Google has agreed to scan only books from the Princeton collection that are no longer under copyright.
Google Book Search was launched in 2004 by the internet search engine Google. The project aims to scan and make available online every book ever published — roughly 32 million volumes — within the next 10 years. The Google Book Search website, books.google.com, already includes more than one million books, made available by libraries and publishing companies across the world.
Princeton is the 12th library to open its collection to Google. The libraries of Stanford and the University of Michigan, the alma maters of the company's two founders, are already being scanned for Google Book Search. Google CEO Eric Schmidt '76 is a member of the University Board of Trustees.
Book digitization at Princeton will take place over the next six years.
"After our staff selects the books to be digitized, assesses their physical condition to make sure they are sound enough to be scanned and checks them out to Google in our online circulation system, the books will be loaded onto Google trucks for shipping to one of their several scanning sites," Trainer said. "We haven't yet worked out an exact shipping schedule, but we expect the books to be gone only for a number of weeks."
She added that the University's involvement in the initiative stems in part from student suggestions.
"Students have been asking me for some time if we were going to participate in this Google project because they wanted to be able to search the full text of library books online, from whatever location and at whatever hour was convenient," Trainer said. "We welcome suggestions from students about the parts of the library collection in the public domain that should be digitized."
To facilitate its international project, Google designed special scanning equipment that can process thousands of books every day. Additionally, it set up scanning facilities across the country.
Just as the main Google website searches websites for certain words or phrases, Google Book Search searches for certain terms within the full text of all books that have been scanned into its database. Google intends for the website to be used primarily as a research tool, offering a different source of information from the ones already accessible online through websites.
"There are some things you can really only get from books," Google spokeswoman Megan Lamb said. "The internet is an amazing tool for finding information, but books are still a crucial resource for doing research."
A number of similar projects have been undertaken by groups including amazon.com, the Open Content Alliance and Carnegie Mellon's Universal Library project. So far, Google's endeavor has been the most ambitious, attempting to digitize far more texts than other such initiatives.
While the Google Book Search project has partnered with roughly 10,000 publishers, Princeton will be only the 12th library involved. In addition to Stanford and Michigan, the collections of Harvard, Oxford and the universities of California, Virginia, Texas-Austin and Wisconsin-Madison are also being scanned. The New York Public Library, the University Complutense of Madrid and the National Library of Catalonia are also participating in the project.
"We're hoping to work with more libraries both in the United States and internationally to offer users a really diverse and comprehensive resource," Lamb said.
The Princeton contract allows Google to scan only those texts from the library's collection that are in the public domain — that is, no longer under copyright. The issue of copyright infringement has played a large role in the development of Google's Book Search project, culminating in two lawsuits brought against the company in 2005 by members of the Authors Guild and a group of book publishers partnering with Google in the project. The plaintiffs allege that, by scanning the full text of books that are still under copyright, Google violates the rights of the publishers.
In response to these accusations, Google has ensured that the Google Books website only allows users to view a few pages at a time within copyrighted books. The full texts of the already-scanned and copyrighted books, however, remain in the Google database, even though they are not fully available to users.
Princeton is not the first university to be concerned about copyright infringement when digitizing its library collection. Stanford, Harvard and Oxford have also let Google only access the books in their collections that are no longer under copyright. Other schools — including the universities of California, Michigan, Texas-Austin and Virginia — are permitting Google to digitize copyrighted materials from their libraries, however.
"The Google position is that they can digitize first and then, if necessary, ask permission — but that in general the doctrine of 'fair use' covers the copying they are undoubtedly engaged in," Wilson School professor Stan Katz said in an e-mail. Katz directs the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies and is on the board of the Copyright Clearance Center.
"There is no definitive legal answer ... on the subject yet," he said, "but I think many reasonable people are troubled by the Google approach."
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