The Latest from Google Book Search - April 2009

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Google Librarian Newsletter

Apr 6, 2009, 7:47:59 PM4/6/09
In This Issue:

  Letter from the Editor


  Google Book Search Settlement

  Google Book Search comes to mobile

  New content on Google

Best of the Inside Google Book Search Blog - the last 6 months:

  "But where to start?"

  "Book search everywhere with new partnerships and tools"

  "A first for France: the city of Lyon and Google partner up to digitize books"

Product Announcements:



Letter from the Editor:

After a 9-month hiatus, the Google Librarian Newsletter has returned!

A lot’s happened since our last newsletter went out. In our "Features" section, we have several updates on Google Book Search, including the recent settlement of the lawsuit brought on by the AAP and the Author's Guild as well as the launch of Google Book Search on mobile phones. We also wanted to tell you about the addition of several new types of content on Google properties - from magazines and news archives to millions of historic images from the Time/Life collection.

In our next section, we wanted to share some interesting posts from the Inside Google Book Search blog. Check out the "Best of the Blog" to see some of the highlights over the past 6 months, including our new iGoogle gadget with personalized Book recommendations, a new tool that enables you to embed books and results from Google Book Search on your website, and a new partnership with the municipal library of Lyon in France.

Lastly, the "Products Announcements" section contains an article on Knol, a new collaborative editing product that we recently launched.

As always, feel free to drop us a line if you have comments, questions or feedback to share.




Increasing access to books: the Google Book Search settlement agreement

by Daniel Clancy, Engineering Director for Google Book Search

If you were at ALA Midwinter this year, you may have attended the panel where Paul Courant, Karen Coyle, and I discussed the settlement agreement that Google announced with a broad class of authors and publishers this past fall.  The agreement, which settles two lawsuits brought against the Google Books Library Project, proposes to dramatically increase access to millions of books in the U.S., while at the same time expanding the opportunities for authors and publishers to earn money from their works.  The agreement also provides a wealth of new opportunities for libraries, academics, and researchers, a few of which we'd like to share with you:

  • Expanded access to millions of in-copyright booksLibrarians have been providing access to books for thousands of years, and over time they have increased the size of their collections and broadened their reach into the community. The agreement dramatically expands the reach of Book Search Library Partners by enabling readers across the U.S. to preview millions of in-copyright out-of-print books preserved in their collectionsReaders will be able to search these books through Google Book Search and where previously they have only been able to view bibliographic information and a few snippets of text from the book, they will be able to view a limited preview (up to 20%) of the book to find out if it suits their needs.  From there, they can click through to a list of libraries which hold that book, to online bookstores (which carry used books) or to purchase instant online access to the rest of the book so that they may read the book in its entirety. 
  • Free online viewing of books at U.S. public and university librariesIn most communities, your local library is one of your primary access points to information.  Through this agreement, public libraries, community colleges, and universities across the U.S. will be able to provide free full-text reading to books housed in great libraries of the world like Stanford, California, Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan.  A newly-created Public Access Service license will allow full-text viewing of millions of out-of-print books to readers who visit library facilities. Public libraries will be eligible to receive one free Public Access Service license for a computer located on-site at each of their library buildings in the United States.  Non-profit, higher education institutions will be eligible to receive free Public Access Service licenses for on-site computers, the exact number of which will depend on the number of students enrolled. 
  • Institutional subscriptions to millions of additional books: Imagine never having to ask a patron to wait until a book is returned or arrives through interlibrary loan.  Beyond the free license described above, libraries will also be able to purchase an institutional subscription to millions of books covered by the settlement agreement.  Once purchased, this subscription will allow a library to offer patrons access to the incredible collections of Google's library partner when they are in the library itself as well as when they access it remotely.

  • Services for People with Print DisabilitiesOne of the advantages digitization presents is the opportunity to enable greater accessibility to books.  Through the agreement, the visually impaired and print disability community will be able to access millions of in-copyright books through screen enlargement, reader, and Braille display technologies.
  • New Research Opportunities with the Creation a Research Corpus: The vast database of books that Google is digitizing is not just a resource for readers, but also a one-of-a-kind research tool. The agreement allows for the creation of two research centers that will include a copy of almost all of the books digitized by Google. These research centers will enable people to conduct research that utilizes computers to process or analyze the text of the books. Examples of the types of research they will facilitate include automatic translation, analysis of how language has evolved over time, next generation search technology, image processing research and others.

This agreement would not have been possible without the work of librarians who have preserved and maintained books for years, and Google Book Search's library partners, who worked with Google to make so many of them discoverable online.  To learn more about what they have to say about the agreement, check out our thoughts and opinions page.

1.5 million books in your pocket

by Frances Haugen, Book Search Mobile Team

One of the great things about an iPhone or Android phone is being able to play Pacman while stuck in line at the post office. Sometimes though, we yearn for something more than just playing games or watching videos.

What if you could also access literature's greatest works, such as Emma and The Jungle Book, right from your phone? Or, some of the more obscure gems such as Mark Twain's hilarious travelogue, Roughing It? On February 5th we announced the launch of a mobile version of Google Book Search, opening up over 1.5 million mobile public domain books in the US (and over half a million outside the US) for you to browse while buying your postage.

While these books were already available on Google Book Search, these new mobile editions are optimized to be read on a small screen. To try it out and start reading, open up your web browser in your iphone or Android phone and go to

There's an interesting backstory about the work involved to prepare so many books for mobile devices. If you use Google Book Search, you'll notice that our previews are composed of page images made by digitizing physical copies of books. These page images work well when viewed from a computer, but prove unwieldy when viewed on a phone's small screen.

Our solution to make these books accessible is to extract the text from the page images so it can flow on your mobile browser just like any other web page. Yet the extraction of text from page images is a difficult engineering task. Smudges on the physical books' pages, fancy fonts, old fonts, torn pages, etc. can all lead to errors in the extracted text. Yet despite the technical challenges, we'll continue to make enhancements to our technologies. With this launch, we believe that we've taken an important step toward more universal access to books.

New content on Google Search

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. In the past few months, we announced the launch of several initiatives that expand the scope of our efforts on digitizing and bringing more types of content online.

Magazines on Google Book Search

In December we announced an initiative to help bring more magazine archives and current magazines online on Google Book Search, partnering with publishers to digitize millions of articles from titles as diverse as New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony. You can search for magazines through Google Book Search. For queries with relevant results, you'll find magazine articles alongside book results. When you click on a magazine result, you can read articles in full color and in their original context, just as you would in the printed magazine. Read the full announcement here.

Newspaper Archives

In September, we announced new partnerships with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives. Let's say you want to learn more about the landing on the Moon. Try a search for "Americans walk on moon" on Google News Archive Search, and you'll be able to find and read an original article from a 1969 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Not only will you be able to search these newspapers, you'll also be able to browse through them exactly as they were printed -- photographs, headlines, articles, advertisements and all. Read the full announcement here.

Time/Life Images on Google Image Search

In November we launched a never-before-seen collection of images from the LIFE photo archive. From the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination to the Mansell Collection from London, this collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s. Read the full announcement here.

Ocean and Roman History come to Google Earth

On February 2nd Google Earth became much more complete with the addition of a detailed map of the ocean floors, so you can actually drop below the surface and explore the nooks and crannies of the seafloor in 3D. While you're there you can explore thousands of data points including videos and images of ocean life, details on the best surf spots, logs of real ocean expeditions, and much more. Read the full announcement here.       

In November, the Google Earth team introduced the ability to go back in time and explore Rome as it existed in 320 AD -- in 3D! Through the Ancient Rome 3D layer in Google Earth, you can explore over 6,700 3D buildings and 250 placemarks from this fascinating period of history. So go ahead, fly down to the Roman Forum and experience what it may have felt like to stand on the Rostra of Augusta and make a political speech. Read the full announcement here.


Best of the Inside Google Book Search Blog - the last 6 months:

"But Where to Start?"
In October, Product Manager Frances Haugen introduced a new iGoogle gadget which allows you to manage your Google Book Search Library and receive customized recommendations based on the books you save. Read the full post.

"Book Search Everywhere with New Partnerships and Tools"

In September, Product Manager Alex Diaz introduced a set of free tools that allow libraries, retailers, publishers, and anyone with a web site to embed books from the Google Book Search index. We are also providing new ways for these sites to display full-text search results from Book Search, and even integrate with social features such as ratings, reviews, and readers' book collections. By providing tools that help sites connect readers with books in new and interesting ways, we hope publishers and authors will find even wider audiences for their works. Read the full post.

"The Most Important Single Work in Science"

In February, guest writer Michael Williams of the Oxford University Library wrote a post commemorating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work On the Origin of Species. Working with the Oxford Library, we digitized one of the very few first-edition copies of the book that are still well-preserved. Read the full post.
Product Announcements:

:Revealing the crowd behind the wisdom

by Matt Ghering, Product Marketing Manager

Some of the clearest memories I have of elementary school are my research reports.  Our teacher would take us to the library and introduce us to the card catalog, and for the next few weeks we would spend time in the library researching and learning about a new topic. It was all pretty empowering for an elementary student, and I loved it. As I got older, the card catalog was quickly replaced by the internet, and with it came the constant refrain, "make sure to always check your sources ..."  Information became easier to find, yet oddly, sometimes harder to trust. Books had authors and publishers, and even if they were sometimes biased, you at least knew where they came from. The internet, on the other hand, didn't always have authors, and you could never be sure who or what was behind some of what you read.

At Google, we launched Knol to make the source of online information more clear. Knol is a collaborative web publishing tool. Much like a wiki, Knol makes it easy for anyone to write or contribute to an article about a subject they know well.  More importantly, however, each Knol also clearly identifies its authors and contributors so that readers can easily tell where the information is coming from. In other words, Knol lets you check your sources online.

With over 100,000 knols published in the five months since the product launched, Knol is quickly becoming a valuable research tool. From Osteoporosis to Backpacking, you can find many topics on Knol, with more being added every day. You can even write one yourself.  Just pick a topic you know well and start writing. So next time you're helping a student with a research project, tell them about Knol, and remind them to check their sources.

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