28 November 2007

Millions of Book Projects

There are so many book-scanning projects underway at the moment that it's hard to keep up. Google's may have the highest profile, but it suffers from the big problem that it won't make full texts routinely available. That's not the case for the Universal Digital Library, aka the Million Book Project - a name that's no longer appropriate:

The Million Book Project, an international venture led by Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, Zhejiang University in China, the Indian Institute of Science in India and the Library at Alexandria in Egypt, has completed the digitization of more than 1.5 million books, which are now available online.

For the first time since the project was initiated in 2002, all of the books, which range from Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” to “The Analects of Confucius,” are available through a single Web portal of the Universal Library (www.ulib.org), said Gloriana St. Clair, Carnegie Mellon’s dean of libraries.

“Anyone who can get on the Internet now has access to a collection of books the size of a large university library,” said Raj Reddy, professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon. “This project brings us closer to the ideal of the Universal Library: making all published works available to anyone, anytime, in any language. The economic barriers to the distribution of knowledge are falling,” said Reddy, who has spearheaded the Million Book Project.

Though Google, Microsoft and the Internet Archive all have launched major book digitization projects, the Million Book Project represents the world’s largest, university-based digital library of freely accessible books. At least half of its books are out of copyright, or were digitized with the permission of the copyright holders, so the complete texts are or eventually will be available free.

The main problem with the site seems to be insufficient computing wellie: I keep on getting "connection timed out" when I try to use it. Promising, nonetheless. (Via Open Access News.)

Update: Here's a good post on some of the issues surrounding book projects.

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