British Library and Google to make 250,000 Books Available Online
The British Library and Google announced a partnership to digitize 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the Library’s collections. Opening up access to one of the greatest collections of books in the world, this demonstrates the Library’s commitment, as stated in its 2020 Vision, to increase access to anyone who wants to do research. Selected by the British Library and digitized by Google, both organizations will work in partnership over the coming years to deliver this content free through Google Books and the British Library’s website. Google will cover all digitization costs.
This project will digitize a huge range of printed books, pamphlets and periodicals dated 1700 to 1870, the period that saw the French and Industrial Revolutions, The Battle of Trafalgar and the Crimean War, the invention of rail travel and of the telegraph, the beginning of UK income tax, and the end of slavery. It will include material in a variety of major European languages, and will focus on books that are not yet freely available in digital form online.
The first works to be digitized will range from feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette (1791), to the invention of the first combustion engine-driven submarine (1858), and an account of a stuffed Hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange (1775). Once digitized, these unique items will be available for full text search, download and reading through Google Books, as well as being searchable through the Library’s website and stored in perpetuity within the Library’s digital archive.
Researchers, students and other users of the Library will be able to view historical items from anywhere in the world as well as copy, share and manipulate text for non-commercial purposes. Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library said, “In the nineteenth century it was an ambition of our predecessors to give everybody access to as much of the world’s information as possible, to ensure that knowledge was not restricted to those who could afford private libraries. The way of doing it then was to buy books from the entire world and to make them available in Reading Rooms.”
Lynne continued, “We are delighted to be partnering with Google on this project and through this partnership believe that we are building on this proud tradition of giving access to anyone, anywhere and at any time. Our aim is to provide perpetual access to this historical material, and we hope that our collections coupled with Google’s know-how will enable us to achieve this aim.”
Peter Barron, Director of External Relations for Google, said, “What’s powerful about the technology available to us today isn’t just its ability to preserve history and culture for posterity, but also its ability to bring it to life in new ways. This public domain material is an important part of the world’s heritage and we’re proud to be working with the British Library to open it up to millions of people in the UK and abroad.”
Colin Jones, President of the Royal Historical Society and Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London commented, “There is no doubt that the digitization of this unique material will greatly benefit the research process. Academics are increasingly using new technologies at their disposal to search for innovative ways of investigating historical material to enable us to probe new questions and find alternative patterns of investigation. Digitization gives us the freedom to not only do this quickly and remotely, but also enhances the quality and depth of the original.”
This partnership demonstrates the Library’s further commitment to working with the private sector to digitize parts of its collections. Recently, the Library announced a partnership with brightsolid to digitize up to 40 million pages of its newspaper collections and previously the Library partnered with Microsoft to digitize 65,000 19th century books, some of which are now available as an App on Apple’s iPad.
It is also planned to make the works available via Europeana, the European Digital Library.