Google to put books from great libraries on internet

More than a million books at Oxford University's expansive Bodleian Library, including rare first editions, are to be scanned by the search engine Google and posted online for readers around the world.

More than a million books at Oxford University's expansive Bodleian Library, including rare first editions, are to be scanned by the search engine Google and posted online for readers around the world.

Oxford University is one of five institutions around the world to digitise its books as part of a new initiative that aims to make works more accessible to the reading public.

Other establishments taking part in the project announced yesterday include Stanford and Michigan Universities, which will digitise their complete libraries, as well as the archives at Harvard and New York Public Library.

The initiative will enable people to search for and read scanned pages of millions of previously inaccessible books. About one million books from the 19th-century collection at the Bodleian Library - home to eight million works - are to be scanned as part of the Google Print programme.

Novels, poetry, political tracts and art books that are either out of print or accessible only in a few libraries around the world will feature in the selection of books to be digitised.

These include the 1862 edition of Goblin Market and other Poems by Christina Rossetti, with designs by D G Rossetti and the 1834 Wanderings By The Seine by Leitch Ritchie and illustrated by J M W Turner.

The new programme will enable members of the public to gain a previously unknown degree of access to rare volumes, according to Reg Carr, director of Oxford University Library Services.

"Making the wealth of knowledge accumulated in the Bodleian Library's historic collections accessible to as many people as possible is at the heart of Oxford University's commitment to lifelong learning," he said.

"Oxford is therefore proud to be part of this effort to make information available to everyone who might benefit from it."

He added: "The Bodleian's 19th-century collections, which include many out-of-print titles which otherwise would be incredibly hard to find, will be scanned as part of the programme. We hope that Oxford's contribution to this project will be of scholarly use, as well as general interest, to people around the world."

Online pages of the scanned books will display links to the internet store Amazon and public libraries, rather than adverts. It is expected to take as long as six years to digitise the entire collection of seven million volumes at the University of Michigan. Users will be able to access only extracts or bibliographies of copyrighted works.

The New York library is enabling Google to include a portion of books that are no longer covered by copyright while Harvard is contributing 40,000 books.

Announcing the initiative, Larry Page, co-founder of Google and president of products, said: "Even before we started Google, we dreamed of making the incredible breadth of information that librarians so lovingly organise, searchable online.

"We are pleased to announce this programme to digitise the collections of these amazing libraries so that every Google user can search them."

John Wilkin, a librarian at the University of Michigan, added: "This is the day the world changes ... This is something we have to do to revitalise the profession and make it more meaningful."

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