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Controversial Google library project grows

AFP | January 19, 2007

Google announced that another major US college library had joined its controversial project to put the world's books online.

The more than one million written works at the University of Texas library in Austin will be converted to digital format and added to Google Books Library Project, according to the Internet search powerhouse.

The university's collection includes rare books and manuscripts from early Latin American history, Google said.

"Intellectual discovery is at the heart of the scholarly research process," university director of libraries Fred Heath said in a statement.

"The best collections of information are only as useful as the quality of the tools available for discovering and accessing that information."

The Google Book Search project was initiated in 2004 with the aim of scanning every literary work into digital format and making them available online.

Google has partnerships with the New York Public Library and major universities such as Harvard, Oxford, Complutense of Madrid and the University of California to add their collections to its virtual book shelves.

The Mountain View, California-based company has stored on its searchable database classic works in the public domain, along with copyrighted books either sent with or without the publishers' permission.

After outcries from publishing houses and authors, Google modified its online library to offer only summaries of copyrighted works along with information regarding where to buy or borrow the books.

Google has rejected claims that, being based in the United States, it has favored English and it promised it would next roll out a Google Book Search in French.

Opposition to the project, particularly by French and US editors, resulted in a group of book publishers forming the Open Content Alliance (OCA) in October of 2005.

The OCA is a non-profit organization which joins together an array of universities, foundations, and data processors to create a "common pot" of digitized books available online for download or printing.

The OCA got the support of Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo, which was to tailor a search engine for the alliance and finance converting 18,000 books to digital format.

Microsoft promised to contribute 150,000 digitized books to the OCA collection. The OCA hoped to recruit the National Library of France, where 90,000 books have already been scanned.

Microsoft launched an online library in December in a move that pits the world's biggest software company against Google's book project.

Microsoft said the US test version of Live Search Books featured tens of thousands of out-of-copyright books, including works held by the British library and major universities in the United States and Canada.

Microsoft has book-scanning partnerships with New York Public Library and the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine. It also has agreements with the University of California system and the University of Toronto.

At stake for the companies were revenues that could be raked in by placing ads on web pages visited by book-seeking Internet surfers.

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