Google Book Scans Go Slow at Research Libraries

No speedy way to digitize the rarest of volumes, search giant finding
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2008 6:30 PM CDT
Courtney Mitchel helps a giant desktop machine digest a rare, centuries-old Bible in Ann Arbor, Mich.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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(Newser) – In its ongoing effort to digitize the world's 50-100 million books for online book searching, Google is funding scanning efforts for rare volumes at leading libraries. The AP observed one such digitizing—the oldest Bible with Arabic type, scanned manually at 600 pages per day—which, to protect the work, can't use Google's standard, and much speedier, process.

So far 1 million of an estimated 6 million rare tomes at the University of Michigan have been scanned. A prominent Internet archivist worries Google might try to "lock up the public domain" with its scans of titles that no longer have copyright protection, but a Michigan librarian dismisses such concerns as "theoretical." Meanwhile, the laborious process continues. "I turn pages. It's kind of meditative," says one person involved.