Google has struck a deal with the British Library to “digitise” (scan and upload) all out of copyright works that the British Library holds.
Google and the British Library plan to scan 250,000 texts from the 18th and 19th centuries to bolster the British Library’s digital collection.
The British Library already has 1.25 million records and this is likely to rise to over 50 million records by 2020 when the project will be completed. This is the first major online archive of important texts.
Google Books is managing the work and has already scanned around 15 million texts but legal issues forced it to stop.
Google has been criticised in recent years for its aggressive approach to sharing the world’s information. Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The online publication of the world’s books forms a part of that plan.
Google’s strategy is to focus on quality now. It has developed the architecture required to handle huge volumes of information but now it is essentially focusing on giving the best quality information to its searchers. Partnering with libraries allows it to provide works of a high quality to all those seeking that type of information. This is something which other search engines are lagging way behind on.
The future of information is online. We live in a world where libraries have moved away from being the sole source of information and are now community hubs which provide a wide range of excellent services. However, fewer people use libraries to find information as the Internet is simply much quicker and provides a much greater range of information.
By scanning the texts held by the British Library people all over the world will have access to documents which previously were only available to a few individuals at any one time. This is a major step towards a more global distribution of information.