Google Books Library Grows Despite Controversy

October 18, 2006 0

Google said that another US university will add its books to the Internet search titan’s controversial project to make the world’s written works available online.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Google announced an agreement lately to expand access to hundreds of thousands of public and historical books and documents from more than 7.2 million holdings at the UW-Madison Libraries and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library to its Google Books Library Project, they said.

The combined library collections of UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Historical Society comprise one of the largest collections of documents and historical materials to be found in the United States. The collections are ranked 11th in North America by the Association of Research Libraries in Washington, D.C.

The University of Wisconsin has agreed to take part in Google Inc.’s bid to scan book collections of the world’s great libraries, joining a second wave of backers for the controversial project, the two organizations said.

The university is the eighth library to join Google’s ambitious effort to digitize the world’s books and make them searchable on Google Book Search.

The university adds its resources to an impressive list of other libraries that are currently working with Google to digitize portions of their collections include: Harvard, Michigan, New York Public Library, Oxford, Stanford, the University of California system, and, most recently, Madrid’s Complutense University the largest university library in Spain. The Library of Congress is also conducting a pilot project with Google.

The library books at the UWM and the WHS will be digitized and added to the virtual shelves of the Google Books Library Project, according to the arrangement.

"Wisconsin is in a position to take a leading role in making the primary documents of US government history freely accessible on the Internet for anyone to find and use," university provost Patrick Farrell said in a release.

Librarians working to scan the Wisconsin library holdings will focus on collections concerned with the history of medicine, patents and discoveries and engineering, along with the early publications of scientific societies. It will also target American and Wisconsin history, genealogical materials, decorative arts and sheet music, among other subjects, the University of Wisconsin said.

"Whenever possible, the university intends to make the complete content of public documents available on the Internet, including text, images, and maps." Edward Van Gemert, interim director of the library system said in a statement.

An individual looking for information will be able to use Google Book Search to search the full text and locate the printed works digitized from the UW-Madison and WHS collections. Google has specifically designed Book Search to comply with copyright law. Anyone will be able to freely view, browse and read the UW-Madison’s public-domain books, including many of the treasures in the libraries’ historic and special collections.

The Wisconsin project will initially focus on library collections that are free of copyright restrictions. Most books published before 1923 and publications of the U.S. government are in the public domain by law.

To assuage concerns of publishers and authors, Google only provides basic information online regarding copyrighted works and directs people to where those books can be bought or borrowed.

For books in the Google Book Search service that are protected by copyright, users just get basic background (such as the book’s title and the author’s name), at most a few lines of text related to their search, and information about where they can buy or borrow a book. If publishers or authors do not want to have their books digitized, they will be excluded.

Works considered in the public domain are made available for free viewing in full.

The project is expected to provide easier public access for Wisconsinites and others around the world to hundreds of thousands of books held by the two institutions. Van Gemert says the library will work to build awareness of the educational potential of these materials in its future outreach to K-12 schools across Wisconsin.

Anyone with an open Internet connection can use Google Book Search to search the full text and locate the printed works digitized from within the Wisconsin collections or those of other libraries participating in the project.

The drive to digitize major libraries was nearly derailed when authors’ and publishers’ groups sued Google last year to block scanning of copyrighted library books, arguing that — akin to Napster’s effect on the music industry — the effort might tempt consumers to stop buying printed works.

Google has countered it is creating the electronic equivalent of a library card catalog for copyrighted works and that the library project only plans to publish the full texts of out-of-copyright books in the public domain.

The Google Books Library Project began last year with five participating libraries — the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, the New York Public Library and Oxford University. Google is also conducting a pilot project with the Library of Congress.

Last week publishers offered an olive branch to Internet search engines with new technology that would make content widely available but safeguard copyrights.

Google, run by a team steeped in academia, has been very proactive in promoting educational causes as part of its overall strategy. The company also recently launched Google Apps for Education, introducing applications for communication, collaboration and search for educational institutions.

The applications will be previewed the Educause tradeshow in Dallas, Texas. The company also plans to release a set of beta APIs for organizations that want integrate directories, single-sign-on systems, and mail gateways with Google Apps for Education. Arizona State University has already integrated the APIs into their system.

In this flurry of educational announcements, Google Enterprise also revealed that Blackboard will be the first Google Enterprise Professional partner to focus primarily on the education market. Blackboard will focus on helping schools integrate Google enterprise search technology for schools, as well as integrating the Blackboard Learning System with Google Scholar.

The project can be found at http://books.google.com/.