Google to digitize millions of books

Google to digitize millions of books

Many years ago, Howard Rheingold asked an interesting question. He was trying to get people to think about the possibilities of a world in which everything that was published was accessible on the Web. “Where is the Library of Congress”, he mused, “when it’s on your laptop?” In the old days, people had to come to the information. But one day it would be the other way round. Now it seems that day may be closer than we thought — thanks to Google.

Today’s Mercury News reports:

“Google is launching an ambitious effort to make digital copies of some of the world’s largest university library collections and will incorporate the texts into its vast Web index, apparently the largest project of its kind ever attempted.

As envisioned, almost anyone with a computer could instantly tap into enormous academic libraries — some with texts dating back centuries.

Stanford, Harvard and Oxford universities, as well as the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library, are participating in the program, which could span years and involve scanning and indexing well more than 10 million books and periodicals.”

One of the side effects of this project — as my friend Gerard points out — will be to reinforce the dominance of English as a global language. If I were the French government, I’d be negotiating with Google to digitise the contents of the Bibliotheque Nationale.