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Google Book Search is a service from Google that searches the full text of books that Google scans, converts to text using optical character recognition, and stores in its digital database. The service was formerly known as Google Print when it was introduced at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2004. When relevant to a user's keyword search, up to three results from the Google Book Search index are displayed above search results in the Google Web Search service ( A user may also search just for books at the dedicated Google Book Search service. Clicking a result from Google Book Search opens an interface in which the user may view pages from the book as well as content-related advertisements and links to the publisher's website and booksellers. Through a variety of access limitations and security measures, some based on user-tracking, Google limits the number of viewable pages and attempts to prevent page printing and text copying of material under copyright.

The Google Book Search database continues to grow. Google Book Search allows public-domain works and other out-of-copyright material to be downloaded in PDF format. For users outside the United Statesmarker, though, Google must be sure that the work in question is indeed out of copyright under local laws. According to a member of the Google Book Search Support Team, "Since whether a book is in the public domain can often be a tricky legal question, we err on the side of caution and display at most a few snippets until we have determined that the book has entered the public domain."

Many of the books are scanned using the Elphel 323 camera at a rate of 1,000 pages per hour.

The initiative has been hailed for its potential to offer unprecedented access to what may become the largest online corpus of human knowledge and promoting the democratization of knowledge, but it has also been criticized for potential copyright violations.

Number scanned

By March 2007, Google had digitized one million books, according to the The New York Times at an estimated cost of US$5 million. On October 28, 2008, Google stated that they had 7 million books searchable through Google Book Search, including those scanned by their 20,000 publisher partners. Of the 7 million books, 1 million are "full preview" based on agreements with publishers. One million are in the public domain. Most scanned works are no longer in print or commercially available. On October 9, 2009 Google announced that the number of scanned books is over 10 million.


  • Microsoft started a similar project called Live Search Books in late 2006. It ran until May 2008, when the project was abandoned. All of the Live Search Books are now available on Internet Archivemarker. Internet Archive is a non-profit and the second largest book scanning project after Google. As of November 2008 it had over 1 million full-text public domain scanned works online.
  • Europeana links to roughly 3 million digital objects as of November 2008, including video, photos, paintings, audio, maps, manuscripts, printed books, and newspapers from the past 2,000 years of European history from over 1,000 archives in the European Union. This number is set to reach 10 million in 2010.
  • Gallicamarker from the French National Library links to about 800,000 digitized books, newspapers, manuscripts, maps and drawings, etc. Created in 1997, the digital library continues to expand at a rate of about 5000 new documents per month. Since the end of 2008, most of the new scanned documents are available in image and text formats. Most of these documents are written in French, but some are in other languages.



December 2004 Google signaled an extension to its Google Print initiative known as the Google Print Library Project. Google announced partnerships with several high-profile university and public libraries, including the University of Michiganmarker, Harvardmarker (Harvard University Library), Stanfordmarker (Green Library), Oxfordmarker (Bodleian Librarymarker), and the New York Public Librarymarker. According to press releases and university librarians, Google plans to digitize and make available through its Google Book Search service approximately 15 million volumes within a decade. The announcement soon triggered controversy, as publisher and author associations challenged Google's plans to digitize, not just books in the public domain, but also titles still under copyright.


September–October 2005 Two lawsuits against Google charge that the company has not respected copyrights and has failed to properly compensate authors and publishers. One is a class action suit on behalf of authors (Authors Guild v. Google, Sept. 20 2005) and the other is a civil lawsuit brought by five large publishers and the Association of American Publishers. (McGraw Hill v. Google, Oct. 19 2005)

November 2005: Google changed the name of this service from Google Print to Google Book Search. Its program enabling publishers and authors to include their books in the service was renamed "Google Books Partner Program" (see Google Library Partners) and the partnership with libraries became Google Books Library Project.


August 2006: The University of California System announced that it would join the Book Search digitization project. This includes a portion of the 34 million volumes within the approximately 100 libraries managed by the System.

September 2006: The Complutense University of Madridmarker becomes the first Spanish-language library to join the Google Books Library Project.

October 2006: The University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker announced that it would join the Book Search digitization project along with the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. Combined, the libraries have 7.2 million holdings.

November 2006: The University of Virginiamarker joins the project. Its libraries contain more than five million volumes and more than 17 million manuscripts, rare books and archives.


January 2007: The University of Texas at Austinmarker announced that it would join the Book Search digitization project. At least one million volumes will be digitized from the University's 13 library locations. (As of late 2008, the University of Texas has withdrawn from continuing to help the digitization project.)

March 2007: The Bavarian State Librarymarker announced a partnership with Google to scan more than a million public domain and out-of-print works in German as well as English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.

May 2007: A book digitizing project partnership was announced jointly by Google and the Cantonal and University Library of Lausannemarker.

May 2007: The Boekentorenmarker Library of Ghent Universitymarker will participate with Google in digitizing and making digitized versions of 19th century books in the French and Dutch languages available online.June 2007: The Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) announced that its twelve member libraries would participate in scanning 10 million books over the course of the next six years.

July 2007: Keio Universitymarker became Google's first library partner in Japanmarker with the announcement that they would digitize at least 120,000 public domain books.

August 2007: Google announced that it would digitize up to 500,000 both copyrighted and public domain items from Cornell University Librarymarker. Google will also provide a digital copy of all works scanned to be incorporated into the university’s own library system.

September 2007: Google added a feature that allows users to share snippets of books that are in the public domain. The snippets may appear exactly as they do in the scan of the book or as plain text.September 2007: Google debuts a new feature called "My Library" which allows users to create personal customized libraries, selections of books that they can label, review, rate, or full-text search.

December 2007: Columbia University was added as a partner in digitizing public domain works.


May 2008: Microsoft tapers off and plans to end its scanning project which reached 750,000 books and 80 million journal articles.

October 2008: A settlement is reached between the publishing industry and Google after two years of negotiation. Google agrees to compensate authors and publishers in exchange for the right to make millions of books available to the public.

November 2008: Google reaches the 7 million book mark for items scanned by Google and by their publishing partners. 1 million are in full preview mode and 1 million are fully viewable and downloadable public domain works. About five million are currently out of print.

December 2008: Google announces the inclusion of Magazines in Google Book Search. Titles include New York Magazine, Ebony, and Popular Mechanics and others.


May 2009: At the annual BookExpo convention in New York, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google.

Google Books Library Project participants

The number of participating institutions has grown since the inception of the Google Books Library Project; The University of Mysore has been mentioned in many media reports as being a library partner. They are not, however, listed as a partner by Google.

Initial partners

Additional partners

Other institutional partners have joined the Project since the partnership was first announced.

Copyright infringement, fair use and related issues

The publishing industry and writers' groups have criticized the project's inclusion of snippets of copyrighted works as infringement. In the fall of 2005 the Authors Guild of America and Association of American Publishers separately sued Google, citing "massive copyright infringement." Google countered that its project represented a fair use and is the digital age equivalent of a card catalog with every word in the publication indexed. Despite Google taking measures to provide full text of only works in public domain, and providing only a searchable summary online for books still under copyright protection, publishers maintain that Google has no right to copy full text of books with copyrights and save them, in large amounts, into its own database.

Other lawsuits followed. In June 2006, a French publisher announced its intention to sue Google France. In 2006 a previously-filed German lawsuit was withdrawn.

In March 2007, Thomas Rubin, associate general counsel for copyright, trademark, and trade secrets at Microsoft, accused Google of violating copyright law with their book search service. Rubin specifically criticized Google's policy of freely copying any work until notified by the copyright holder to stop.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, associate professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginiamarker has argued that the project poses a danger for the doctrine of fair use, because the fair use claims are arguably so excessive that it may cause judicial limitation of that right. Because Author's Guild v. Google did not go to court, the fair use dispute is left unresolved.

Google licensing of public domain works is also an area of concern. Google apparently is claiming a restrictive 'No-Commercial use' term in respect of the PDF electronic versions it provides, as well as using digital watermarking techniques with them. Some published works that are in the public domain, such as all works created by the U.S. Federal government, are still treated like other works under copyright, and therefore locked after 1922.

Settlement agreement

The Authors Guild, the publishing industry and Google entered into a settlement agreement October 28, 2008, with Google agreeing to pay a total of $125 million to rightsholders of books they had scanned, to cover the plaintiff's court costs, and to create a Book Rights Registry. The settlement has to be approved by the court, which could occur some time after October 2009. Reaction to the settlement has been mixed, with Harvard Library, one of the original contributing libraries to Google Library, choosing to withdraw its partnership with Google if "more reasonable terms" cannot be found. As part of the $125 million settlement signed in October 2008, Google created a Google Book Settlement web site that went active on February 11, 2009. This site allows authors and other rights holders of out of print (but copyright) books to submit a claim by June 5, 2010. In return they will receive $60 per full book, or $5 to $15 for partial works. In return, Google will be able to index the books and display snippets in search results, as well as up to 20% of each book in preview mode. Google will also be able to show ads on these pages and make available for sale digital versions of each book. Authors and copyright holders will receive 63 percent of all advertising and e-commerce revenues associated with their works.

In the US, several organisations, who took no part of the settlement, like the American Society of Journalists and Authors, criticised the settlement fundamentally.. Moreover, the New York book settlement is not restricted to US authors, but relevant to authors of the whole world. This lead to objections even on the level of some European governments and critical voices in many European newspapers

In October 2009, Google countered ongoing critics by stating that its scanning of books and putting them online would protect the world's cultural heritage, Google co-founder Sergey Brin stated, "The famous Library of Alexandriamarker burned three times, in 48 BC, AD 273 and AD 640, as did the Library of Congressmarker, where a fire in 1851 destroyed two-thirds of the collection, I hope such destruction never happens again, but history would suggest otherwise.". This characterization was quickly rebuked by Pam Samuelson, UC Berkeley Professor of Law saying "Libraries everywhere are terrified that Google will engage in price-gouging when setting prices for institutional subscriptions to GBS contents...Brin forgot to mention another significant difference between GBS and traditional libraries: their policies on patron privacy. ..Google has been unwilling to make meaningful commitments to protect user privacy. Traditional libraries, by contrast, have been important guardians of patron privacy."

Language issues

Some European politicians and intellectuals have criticized Google's effort on "language-imperialism" grounds, arguing that because the vast majority of books proposed to be scanned are in English, it will result in disproportionate representation of natural languages in the digital world. German, Russian, and French, for instance, are popular languages in scholarship; the disproportionate online emphasis on English could shape access to historical scholarship, and, ultimately, the growth and direction of future scholarship. Among these critics is Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the former president of the Bibliothèque nationale de Francemarker.

Research issues

It has been argued that the use of Google Books as a research tool represents a fundamental change in how knowledge or information is used and assimilated.[204726]

Google Books versus Google Scholar

While Google Book Search has digitized large numbers of journal back issues, its scans do not include the metadata required for identifying specific articles in specific issues. This has led the makers of Google Scholar to start their own program to digitize and host older journal articles (in agreement with their publishers).

See also


  1. Google currently uses Elphel cameras for book scanning and for capturing street imagery in Google Maps
  2. "Adapted firmware of Elphel 323 camera to meet needs of Google Book Search"
  3. Malte Herwig, "Google's Total Library", Spiegel Online International, Mar. 28, 2007.
  4. O'Sullivan, Joseph and Adam Smith. "All booked up," Googleblog. December 14, 2004.
  5. Copyright infringement suits against Google and their settlement:
  6. PDF file of the complaint. SD. N.Y. Case No. 05-CV-8881-JES.
  7. UC libraries partner with Google to digitize books
  8. University Complutense of Madrid and Google to Make Hundreds of Thousands of Books Available Online
  9. UW–Madion + WHS + Google digitization project partnership announced
  10. The University of Virginia Library Joins the Google Books Library Project
  11. Bavarian State Library + Google digitizing project partnership announced
  12. Reed, Brock. "La Bibliothèque, C'est Google" (Wired Campus Newsletter), Chronicle of Higher Education. May 17, 2007.
  13. Ghent/Gent + Google digitizing project partnership announced
  14. CIC + Google digitizing project partnership announced
  15. Keio + Google digitizing project partnership announced
  16. Cornell + Google digitizing project partnership announced
  17. Google's digitized "snippets" feature announced
  18. Google's "personal library" feature announced
  19. Columbia + Google digitizing project partnership announced
  21. [see above]
  22. Ars Technica
  23. Hindustani Times "Google to digitise 800,000 books at Mysore varsity"
  24. Google Library Partners
  25. Siva Vaidhyanathan,. “The Googlization of Everything and the Future of Copyright,” University of California Davis Law Review volume 40 (March 2007), pp. 1207–1231, pdf
  26. First Monday Transcript September 2007.
  27. Robert B. Townsend, Google Books: Is It Good for History?, Perspectives (September 2007).
  28. "Google Book Settlement Site Is Up; Paying Authors $60 Per Scanned Book", by Erick Schonfeld on February 11, 2009 at TechCrunch
  31. BBC: Google hits back at book critics
  32. [1]
  33. Google Books Is Not a Library
  34. Barbara Quint, "Changes at Google Scholar: A Conversation With Anurag Acharya", Information Today, August 27, 2007.

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