Are you spending tons of money on overpriced and bulky college textbooks? Be glad that you live in the information age because Google has pledged to scan every single book in existence (about 130 million of them) by the year 2020. Soon there will be no such thing as paying hundreds of dollars for books you only use for a semester ever again. Google Books was launched in late 2004 and 6 years later boasts a collection of over 15 million scanned books and counting. Google Books uses the Elphel 323 camera (the same one NASA uses on various spacecraft) which can scan books at a rate of 1,000 pages per hour. Books that are scanned by Google become automatically searchable through the use of OCR (optical character recognition) software. OCR software is currently in its infancy but is showing promising results as technology can now read human writing and adapt to various styles of calligraphy.
The Google Books Library Project is the underlying project that pushes the Google Books movement. It consists of an alliance of universities in the United States as well as around the world that are lending their resources to the Google Books effort. Google has been granted access to peruse these university’s libraries and scan books to be available for all to search. Books whose copyright have expired and are now in the public domain are available to be downloaded as ebooks by users. The project originally started with Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, Oxford and the New York Public Library and has grown to almost 20 well respected universities and libraries. Google Books collection holds about 1 million books that are considered public domain and can be downloaded.
Imagine not having to spend money on textbooks and instead being able to access them all for free using Google Books on a portable device. It is important for Google Books to win their legal battles which will allow them to keep publishing and scanning books. They have been sued quite a number of times by various individuals and companies that protest their books having scanned. Google Books has been hailed for their initiative to increase literacy around the world and democratize and free knowledge but they have also received some criticism regarding their respect for copyright and fair use laws. Regardless of what happens in the future, Google Books is still useful now and is a great resource for the modern student. Google Books is the type of resource that the students of the past couldn’t have even dreamed about. Students have every parcel of human knowledge at their fingertips but most end up taking it for granted. Google Books has several different companies competing with them but this is not necessarily a bad thing because it will increase innovation and originality among the book scanning and OCR industries which seem to be growing by the day.