British Library Cooperated With Google To Digitize Books


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A deal announced between the British Library and Google will make around 250,000 books available on the Internet.

Back in 2010, the British Library already announced its plans to digitize as much as 40 million pages of newspapers dating back to 350 years ago. Later, it also made a deal with Microsoft, which covered plans to make thousands of 19th-century books digitized as well. Now the library cooperated with Google to make about 250,000 books available on the Internet, including an 18th-century English primer for Danish sailors and a treatise on a stuffed hippopotamus.

The deal was announced on the 20th of June, and will enable Internet users to read, search, download and copy numerous texts that were published between 1700 and 1870. The agreement is considered to be a small step towards the British library’s goal of digitizing all of its 14 million books and over 1 million periodicals by 2020. Lynne Brindley, the British library’s chief executive, admitted that thus far it has only managed to digitize just a small fraction of the entire collection, so there was a long way to go.

The cooperation with Google, which will digitize 40 million pages by 2014, will provide researchers on the Internet with a wide variety of rare works dating back to an era of social, political, scientific and technological change that occurred during the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the war of independence.

The list of books ready for being digitized includes Leclerc’s Natural History of the Hippopotamus and A Scheme for Underwater Seafaring dating 1858, which describes the first combustion engine-driven submarine. According to British Library curator Kristian Jensen, all these books are much more than just scholarly curiosities – for example, an 18th-century guide to English for Danish mariners illustrates how English language turned from the language spoken by “people over there on that island” to the most popular language in the world.

Under the agreement, Google will pay to make books no longer covered by copyright restrictions available on both Google Books and the British Library official sites. Meanwhile, Google refused to reveal how much the project would cost, but the company is known for digitizing 13 million books from over 40 libraries worldwide, though its plans have been opposed by the US publishing industry.