nyc library: just a type, point and click away

Some years down the road, anyone with an internet hookup will be able to go to the New York Public Library, the Harvard library - or maybe you'd rather peruse Stanford or Michigan University's offerings. Hell, you'll even be able to go to England's Oxford University library.

Last night Google announced that is embarking on a crazy journey, scanning the stacks at these libraries for its search engine. Google Print results already have been popping up in my online research. The project has amazing potential, if only those damn copyright laws weren't in the way. According to the Associated Press, the NYC library is letting Google scan "a small portion" of its books no longer covered by copyright; Oxford wants all its holdings published before 1901 in the system, while Harvard is limiting its participation to 40,000 books and waiting to see how well the process works. Otherwise, copyrighted results in Google Print return the cover, pubishing info, and the first few pages of the actual text.

Of course, this isn't terribly different from the exisiting Gutenberg Project, which already has amassed a decent collection (of e-books (13,000) through a lot of work with people who have a more open-source, collaborative attitude, including the volunteers who proofread GP e-books, Distributed Proofreaders.

Uber-mainstream Google may have the funding and resources GP does not, and thus will probably get a lot more books online a lot faster. But that just means better access to information for folks across the world, and PG can focus its efforts on texts other than the collections at the libraries Google is working with. Hooray for accessible information!

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