A contract between Google and the University will soon allow students to browse through University library stacks from the comfort of their own homes.
Paul Courant, a University economics professor and dean of libraries, signed an agreement last Wednesday with Google Book Search that will give Google access to scan and digitize nearly 6 million of the University’s books. In return, the University will receive a cost-subsidized subscription to the entire online book database — both from the University’s collection and other contributing libraries.
“We think that the future of library scholarship includes the ability to access a digitized library,” Courant said.
Rather than searching through shelves to find a particular book, students will be able to find the entire book on their computers.
Courant said the advantage of this access is that students will be able to find and read the University’s “hidden books,” the ones filed away in library stacks that are difficult to access.
Last year, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued Google for scanning books without getting permission from the copyright owners. The University decided to try the new system after Google reached a settlement with the two groups regarding ownership rights to the texts.
The University’s agreement with Google calls for libraries and universities to pay a subscription to Google Book Search, which will allow students to read full texts from their desktops.
Overall, the new system will increase the accessibility of books, which Courant said was a key factor in his decision to sign the agreement.
Dan Clancy, engineering director for Google Book Search, said one of Google’s main missions is to “organize all of the world’s information.”
Google Book Search, which Google initiated six years ago, gives students in participating schools and libraries access to resources that they could not otherwise obtain online.
“A large amount of (information) is in books, journals and magazines, which are a record of the scholarly historical past and are not available online yet,” Clancy said.
Right now public access is limited by the physical book; (Google Book Search) greatly opens us access to books.”
The system will permit University students, staff, faculty, and participating libraries around the country to receive digital access to millions of complete books. People who are not affiliated with a university or library will also have the ability to buy individual books online. According to Clancy, individual books will cost $14.99 or less.
Contributing libraries like the University’s will receive a cost subsidy based on the number of books scanned from their collection.
Clancy said Google Books offers a full search of the database, but readers can only see 3 million of the 10 million scanned so far. And for half of those 3 million, only a preview of up to 20 percent of the book is available.
Clancy added that with Google Book Search, University libraries and readers not affiliated with larger institutions will be able to pay to read entire books online, opening up the remaining 7 million books Google has already scanned.
LSA senior Morgan Baker spoke in favor of Google Book Search, but voiced her concern about authors’ rights to their works.
“I think it’s a great idea, but the only issue there is getting authors’ opinions on whether or not their work should be in a library, or whether or not we should be paying to see that work,” Baker said. “But I think that (the University) is all about sharing education and this is the best way to do it.”
Though it will be an ongoing process because of the continuous publishing of new books, Courant said students will reap the benefits of the agreement in three years or less.