By 22 June 2011 | Categories: news


Google is continuing its efforts with Google Books to digitise the content of the the world's libraries and make the knowledge searchable online.

Its most recent effort is in conjunction with the British Library, and the new partnership will see some 250 000 books, dating from 1700-1870 being digitised for free online consumption by all. These books includes some 40 million pages from some of the most turbulent times in human history, from the French Revolution to the abolition of slavery.

Google and the British Library will work together over the coming years on the digitisation, and the content will be offered free of charge through Google Books and the British Library's website. Google is also footing the entire digitisation bill on its own.

All the books are, due to their age, out of copyright, so no legal loopholes should be encountered. Some of the first works scheduled for digitisation includes feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette, the invention of the first combustion engine, and a peculiar account of a stuffed Hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange in 1775.

Once digitised these historical and unique accounts will be made available for full text search and for downloading and reading through Google Books. The library's partnership marks the 40th library to strike a similar deal with Google Books. Google is also in the process of digitising the Yad Vashem holocaust archives as well as the Nelson Mandela archives.

Once online, researchers, students and simply the curious will be able to comb through the historical items from anywhere in the world, and with no fear of tearing a page.

Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the 258-year-old institution 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.” Thankfully, the internet gives us a much more elegant and easy to use solution.

The library is also in partnership with brightsolid and Microsoft to digitise 40 million pages of newspaper collections as well as 65 000 19th century books, some of which are now available on the iPad.

The initiative is definitely a worthy cause, and demonstrates that technology and the internet can be used in great ways.


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