Google Books

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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, August 2018


See also Digitization | EBooks | Google scholar | Google scholar metrics | Microsoft Academic Search | Search engine optimization (SEO)

Google Books (previously known as Google Book Search and the Google Print project) is a large project to digitize the world's books. The Google Books interface provides a type of "index" to search the fulltext of millions of books and magazines that have been scanned by Google in their controversial digitization project. Previously known as "Google Print" and the "Google Library Project", Google Books has tried to work with publishers and libraries in order to create what they call a comprehensive, searchable, online catalogue of all books in all languages. Google's book project has scanned well over 30 million books. Google estimates that there are 130 million or so unique books in the world and plans to scan all of them by 2020. Results from Google Books appear in its books site, Google scholar and regular Google.

Google announced it would launch Google Editions (now Google Play) and compete head-to-head with bookselling giants Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers in 2010. However, it won't be a viable venture until Google's copyright dispute with publishers is resolved by the courts. Crew (2012) says Google's liability may rise to several hundred billion dollars. Once viable, Google Play will not require specific devices such as Kindles or iPads. While Google Books has digitized large numbers of journals, the digital files of scholarly journals have not yet been described with the metadata needed to identify each item. Google scholar has started its own digitization plan to host older journal articles pending agreement with publishers.

30 million books scanned

By 2007, Google had digitized one million books at an estimated cost of US$5 million. By 2008, Google said it had digitized seven million books including those scanned by 20,000 publishing partners. Of those 7 million, 1 million books are given "full preview" status based on agreements with publishers. A full one million books are considered to be legally in the public domain. Many scanned works are no longer in print or commercially available. In 2011-2012, Google announced that the number of scanned digital books in its collection is over twenty million volumes. According to Chen (2012), Google Books is able to find most books also in WorldCat. The “Find in a library” link to local libraries works most of the time but fewer than 10% of items in Google Books have free full views; 15% have snippets and previews, and previews are more useful than snippets. Google Books seems to index items it does not yet have digitized.

The number of scanned Google books is probably well over 30 million+ but scanning had slowed down considerably especially in USA academic libraries. Google is making steady progress of digitization several million volumes a year. Google estimates that there are probably about 130 million unique books in the world and intends to scan all of them by 2020.

Searching fulltext of books

Search the full text of Books at Google Book Search

  • Find books and discover new ones online;
  • Booksearch works like web search; search Google Book Search or When books with content contain a match, a link to it will be given.

Browse books online

  • If books are out of copyright, the publishers grant permission, you'll see a preview of the book, and in some cases the entire text. If it's in the public domain, download a PDF copy.
  • Google has created reference pages for every book to quickly find relevant information: book reviews, web references, maps, etc.

Books signify culture

In the monograph "Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe" Jean-Noël Jeanneney, President of the Bibliothèque nationale de France critiques the Google Book project. With a foreword from Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, the book is well-argued and places Google's project as a form of cultural politics and hegemony. However, Google's push to digitize has motivated the digitization of European print culture. Google Books provides an important building block of the digital future - so why the fuss?

When Google announced its plans to digitize the world's knowledge (15 million books from five major research libraries in the US and UK), Jeanneney responded with "When Google Challenges Europe" in Le Monde. His 'cri du coeur' became a book which was published as Quand Google défie l'Europe: Plaidoyer pour un sursaut. Even President Chirac endorsed his views and called for France to take leadership in book digitization. Jeanneney's cultural "call to arms" prompted increases in international collaboration in book digitization to counter what some see as the risks posed by Google. Jeanneney presides over one of the largest book digitization projects at the BNF <>. He has been instrumental in mobilizing France and the national librarians of Europe to increase book digitization, launch a European Digital Library, and fund creation of an R&D program for search technologies.

Naturally, Google is not able to digitize everything and its selection of content favours American and English books over others. Its presentation of text is based on keywords and fragments them in culturally damaging ways; some librarians say its linking to advertising permits sloppy imaging at the expense of carefully executed efforts. Google promotes search results that are inconsistent with the rankings of scholars from cultures where the literature originates. Further, permitting a multinational company to own digital files does not represent sound archival planning and defeats efforts to encourage proper preservation approaches.

Similar projects

  • Europeana links to 23 million digital objects from more than 2200 institutions and 33 countries 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.
  • Gallica from the French National Library links to about 800,000 digitized books, newspapers, manuscripts, maps and drawings, etc. The digital library expands at a rate of 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.
  • HathiTrust maintains HathiTrust Digital Library which preserves and provides access to material scanned by Google, some of the Internet Archive books, and scanned locally by partner institutions. It includes 10,415,838 total volumes; 5,481,428 book titles; 271,598 serial titles and 3,645,543,300 pages...
  • Internet Archive is a non-profit organization which digitizes 1000 books a day and mirrors books from Google Books and other sources. It hosts over 2.8 million public domain books, greater than the approximate 1 million public domain books at Google Books. Open Library, a sister project of Internet Archive, lends 80,000 scanned and purchased commercial ebooks to the visitors of 150 libraries.


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