British Library

Google to digitise 250k books in British Library

Google plans to digitise a quarter of a million books from the British Library's collections in an ambitious books project.

Search engine giant Google has already scanned 13 million books through partnerships with more than 40 libraries around the world.

The British Library selection will then 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 its digital archive.

"Our aim at Google has always been to give people as much access to the world's information as is possible," Peter Barron, Google's head of external relations, said.

The British Library project includes a selection of books published between 1700 and 1870, from the French Revolution to the end of slavery.

This includes feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette and an account of a stuffed hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange.

Google will pay the digitisation costs and while it does not make any money from its library partnerships, it says the inclusion of material from books that have never been published online enriches its search results.

The British Library works with a variety of partners and aims to have much of its collection of 150 million items online and available to the public by 2020.

A previous partnership with Microsoft resulted in the digitisation of 65 million 19th century books, some of which are now available through an app for Apple's iPad launched earlier this month.

"This represents another significant milestone but there are plenty more to go," British Library chief executive Lynne Brindley said.

In Europe, Google only scans out-of-copyright books but it faced a lawsuit in 2005 from U.S. authors and publishers after it scanned all books of its U.S. library partners.

Google was offering excerpts of books online without the permission of copyright holders, putting the onus on authors and rights holders to claim payments or to voice their objections.

The lawsuit is yet to be settled.

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