Google project to digitize books grows

STANFORD, Calif. (U-WIRE) — Mired in controversy, the Google Book Search Project has recently added the University of Texas to its list of partners that include the major libraries of Stanford, Harvard, Oxford universities and the New York Public Library in a large-scale effort to digitize millions of books.

The project recently drew fire from the Association of American Publishers as well as the Author’s Guild, which sued Google for threatening to take away revenue from book publishers, but the project’s goal is not to render printed books obsolete.

Andrew Herkovic, director of communications and development for Stanford Libraries, clarified the boundaries of the project.

“The project’s focus is on books that are out of print and no longer generating any sort of revenue for book publishers or the original copyright holders,” he said. “The project has a lot to do with indexing, and very little to do with e-books.”

One of the main goals of the project is to enrich the research community by providing easy digital access to archaic and hard-to-read texts. By creating a platform that will bridge the current gap between researchers and books, the participating universities and Google hope to heighten, not diminish, the importance of literature.

“We actually believe that this project will increase revenue for book publishers,” Herkovic said. “The project is not intended to allow free downloads of a best-selling novel or to take away from someone else’s income.”

The project idea was initially developed in 2001 by Herkovic, Stanford librarian and director of academic information resources Mike Keller and Google co-founder, president and Stanford alumnus Larry Page.

“This project marks a significant contribution toward our vision of a digitized library in order to provide scholars at Stanford — and beyond — with unprecedented access to scholarly information,” Herkovic said.

“Having digitized books, we can build better access to what we have,” he added. “The power of access is vastly important. We can also create opportunities to conceive of new ways of organizing information, based on complete analyses and data mining of large volumes of text.”

Herkovic said that teaming up with Google was an imperative step to realize this vision.

“It’s an expensive undertaking,” Herkovic said. “Google is better able than we are to handle operating costs. In fact, Google is carrying most of the cost of the operation.”

It is this cooperation that has allowed the project to continue growing. Since its initiation more than five years ago, numerous other partners — including the University of California, University of Virginia and the Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison, along with the National Library of Catalonia and University Complutense of Madrid — have expressed interest to join the venture.