Sunday, November 06, 2005

Google Print

Oh, the world is changing...

I have spent most of today browsing Google Print. And I am amazed.

Here is a description of the project from the Google Blog:

"The world's libraries are a tremendous source of knowledge, much of which has never been available online. One of our goals for Google Print is to change that, and today we've taken an exciting step toward meeting it: making available a number of public domain books that were never subject to copyright or whose copyright has expired. We can show every page because these books are in the public domain. (For books not in the public domain we only show small snippets of the work unless the publisher or copyright holder has given us permission to show more.)"

"Our partner libraries –- the University of Michigan, Stanford, Harvard, the New York Public Library, and Oxford –- have preserved and nurtured these books through decades of wear and tear, and we're excited to play a part in ensuring that they, and the knowledge they contain, will be more accessible than ever for decades to come."

Google is still early in this project but there is a ton of information online already. Historians are going to have easy acces to everything published before 1923 (and hence in the public domain) and owned by a participating library when this is completed.

For example, I did a phrase search for "Abraham Lincoln" and limited it to the years 1840 to 1922. This resulted in over 9000 hits! Many of these were references to Lincoln in material not primarily about Lincoln but a lot of it was actual public domain books about him.

This is just overwhelming. The world has changed dramatically seemingly overnight. We all know that people get most of their information on the Web now. This has meant that books have been excluded when searches are done. Not anymore! As Google scans them in, they now also appear when you type in information in that box. Further, as copyright limits the transmission of information from newer books, it will invariably aim searchers to full-text public domain material. This will help to bring primary source material to the front of web searching.

I do have one complaint. Printing and copying text from the books is impossible. I fully understand this with books still under copyright. By all means, give the searcher just enough to encourage them to buy the book. But public domain books? Why not allow searchers to copy and print it? Many students (and scholars) will give up on Google Print if they have to manually retype everything they find to use it in a paper.

I will be using Google Print a lot. I have found a great deal of source material for several of my research projects I had no clue was out there before today. And I am a good library researcher! The world has changed. And I am liking it.

3 comments:

FreebornMD said...

This is amazing. I have spent the last two hours just reading through documents on Roger de Flor. I think the beauty of this is the ability to really narrow in on a focused search and yet yield numerous yet meaningful results. How great is it to pull up the original texts that previous we were forced to read other author's interpretations of?
I wont get into the copyright debate but purely from a history-buff perspective its a game-changer.

sumir said...

It is so great.

I think just a few weeks back, you have expressed this desire.

Even I have written long response to your comment that the books which are out of print should be made available to interested people. Well, in those days, there was news that google was working on that line.

Even some of us are mainly doing the same job here. We are trying to locate the authentic sources on net. You have achieved a great success.

Before that there was only guttenberg.org giving 16000 titles. Now, here another source is available. Some days back on my blog I have given links to information provided by Ian Sinclair who has given information on Digital Library, Kaiser Library and Indology.

Now we have another source.

I have just started with Baburnama query. So before closing I just thanks you for pointing out this source.
sumir

Miland said...

Sumir, yeah I did express this a few weeks back. I was aware that Google Print was in the works but I had no idea how great it would be.

Also check out http://www.bl.uk/news/2005/pressrelease20051104.html. MSN is going to scan the public domain collection of the British Library and put it online!