Tuesday 17 November 2009

News: Google Books

Since its launch in the middle of the decade, Google Books has become one of the most valuable online research tools. Offering full text searches of around 10 million books it has quickly become a vital port of call for researchers across the disciplinary range. For those working in the nineteenth century it has proven particularly valuable, offering up full editions for free download. But it has never been without controversy and Google's plans for the service have attracted lawsuits from a wide range of organisations including the Association of American Publishers, as Business Week reported in 2005.

Now, it seems that those disagreements might be at an end. As an official statement from Google makes clear, big changes are in the pipeline:
Out of print books
Until now, we've only been able to show a few snippets of text for most of the in-copyright books we've scanned through our Library Project. Since the vast majority of these books are out of print, to actually read them you'd have to hunt them down at a library or a used bookstore. This agreement will allow us to make many of these out-of print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.. Helping to ensure the ongoing accessibility of out-of-print books is one of the primary reasons we began this project in the first place, and we couldn't be happier that we and our author, library and publishing partners will now be able to protect mankind's cultural history in this manner.
Equally exciting is the suggestion that Universities will be able to "purchase institutional subscriptions", meaning that "Students and researchers will have access to an electronic library that combines the collections from many of the top universities across the country."

The catch? This service is only going to be rolled out in the United States - for now. Which is unfortunate. And as the BBC reports, complications remain. Elsewhere, the Times considers who might win and who might lose from this deal, and asks a reader and a writer for their responses. Hurry up, future. In the meantime, it's still an important research tool.

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