Google announced yesterday that it will digitally archive millions of books from libraries at Harvard and Stanford universities, the University of Michigan, Oxford University and the New York Public Library, aiming to make the entire texts of the books searchable.
The plan is the first major step toward the company's goal of indexing large amounts of printed material, music and video, experts say.
"This is colossal," said Paul LeClerc, president and chief executive of the New York Public Library.
LeClerc likened the project to the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, which introduced movable metal type and revolutionized printing. "This takes us to a vast audience in ways that are highly efficient and low-cost for us, and it broadens our mission of democratic access to one of the world's greatest collections," he said.
LeClerc said the library would select books from the 1920s and earlier on which the copyrights have expired. Archivists would choose books of great interest to the public that wouldn't be damaged by scanning.
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