Google to digitize every book in the world

A story this morning in the New York Times: that Google is placing adverts in print media all around the world, large and small, trying to find the owners of copyrights, as part of its agreement with publishers to handle in-copyright material.

As part of the class-action settlement, Google will pay $125 million to create a system under which customers will be charged for reading a copyrighted book, with the copyright holder and Google both taking percentages; copyright holders will also receive a flat fee for the initial scanning, and can opt out of the whole system if they wish.

But first they must be found. Since the copyright holders can be anywhere and not necessarily online — given how many books are old or out of print — it became obvious that what was needed was a huge push in that relic of the pre-Internet age: print. …

The almost comically sweeping attempt to reach the world’s entire literate population is a reflection of the ambitions of the Google Book Search project, in which the company hopes to digitize every book — famous or not, in any language, published anywhere on earth — found in the world’s libraries.

I had wondered whether Google was pushing forward with Google Books, now that Microsoft has pulled out of Live Books, but it seems so.  Very good news.  And this, remember, is for books that are in copyright.

Thanks to for the tip.


8 thoughts on “Google to digitize every book in the world

  1. So they will be concentrating on books they can charge for first, I wonder if I will have to pay to access material I have written?

    Will we end up with book-file-sharing sites, and illegal Russian sites offering illegal book downloads?

    Will I get be spam offering illegal low cost dodgy downloads of slightly foxed electronic copies of Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society?

  2. Interesting questions indeed. Probably all these things will happen.

    On the other hand it should put an end to the sort of nonsense I saw today on the Dictionary of National Biography site at Oxford University Press. The site told me that nearly all UK libraries have a subscription; but if I wanted a personal subscription, that would be around $250 for one year. This, to access *one book*!!

  3. Difficult to justify $250 – But then again – you are getting lots of famous people for a few cents a head

    I wonder if you will get you get a complimentry electronic copy of your own work? [so you can lend to a collegue to leave on the tube].

  4. Here is another interesting take on things. This website posts books either no longer protected by copyright, or with permission of copyright holder online., is allowing libraries like UPENN to make their collections available online before the ever get digitized. A book gets digitized when an order is placed for either a paperback or hardcover reprint. From then on it is available as a digital download. UPENN announced that they are making 200,000 books available on

  5. Most UK public libraries also allow ODNB access from home, based on a library card barcode, which obviates the need for a personal subscription for people who live or work in a participating local authority. I expect Roger knows this already, but it may be worth noting for some readers.

    Google’s ability to provide copyrighted book content depends on an agreement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. This means it will require further agreements before similar functionality can become available outside the United States (as I hope it will).

  6. Dude. There have long been Russian book sites offering free illegal book downloads. In fact, the great days of such sites have already gone. Where have you been, man? Not Googling for obscure passages in The Hobbit, apparently….

  7. Ed is right, tho; legal barriers are an issue. There are a lot of stupid and greedy people in Europe who see only a chance to make money, and the public interest go hang. This is how we ended up with people in the EU being unable to see public domain material on Google books.

    As nations bring in internet censorship, access to such Russian sites will undoubtedly be blocked.

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