[Athen] Google makes thousands of classics available for downloading - The Boston Globe

Berkowitz, Daniel J djbrky at bu.edu
Thu Aug 31 10:38:13 PDT 2006


>From the Business Section of the Boston Globe -

Just in time for the start of a new school year, the popular Google
search service is making available thousands of classic books free. For
now, the Google Book Search service offers full downloads only of
"public domain" books, whose copyrights have expired. These include many
of the most famous titles of all time, such as the writings of Dickens,
Shakespeare, and Dante.

It's the latest milestone in Google's campaign to do for books what it
has done for
websites. "Our goal is to create a comprehensive, full-text index of all
the world's books," said Google Book Search group business product
manager Adam Smith.

Discussion about the Google Book Search
<http://books.google.com/intl/en/googlebooks/about.html> project has
taken place [on and off] on various listservs and at professional get
togethers and till now the general consensus has been "well ... that's
nice - but it doesn't do much for us." Because, you see, the Google
project creates digital books that are in accessible for our needs. They
are locked-formated and cannot be run through OCR or read by a
Text-to-Speech program. The on-line library being created by Google was
akin to the "look inside" samples one finds on the Amazon.com catalog.
You could see more then just a few pages, but they were only available
on-line with no downloading or other hanky-panky allowed. many were
missing key passages and pages in order to comply with "fair use"
doctrine that doesn't actually say how much of a given work is 'fair' to
'use' but merely stipulates that as long is it ain't the whole
kit-n-kaboodle you can get away with it.

But now it appears that Google has found it's booksharing backbone --
sorta. They have decided to offer downloadable PDF versions of
out-of-copyright public domain (orphan?) works. Interesting, but nothing
earth shattering to folks who have come to rely for years upon good ol'
Gutenbgrg.net <http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page> for the
occasional title. Andthe best part - Gutenberg is years ahead of Google
in having available clean versions that do need to be futzed
<http://www.thefreedictionary.com/futzed> with in order to prep them
for further processing.

Anyway - getting back to the texts available as complete PDF's, I
semi-randomly chose "Flatland
tsec=titlepage> " from the 'download the classics
<http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/08/download-classics.html> ' post
at the GoogleBlog <http://googleblog.blogspot.com/> . Downloaded it and
ran it through Abby FineReader (v.8). The output is just as good as any
other PDF we have run through OCR. Google has stamped each page with
"Scanned by Google" which we would likely keep on the pages and convert
to page number tags in the DAISY production process. Just when I was
weighing the odds of the liklihood we would need to actually access any
of the books Google has available, one of my student staff walked into
the alt-media lab, saw what I was doing and said, "Yuck! I had to read
that book for a math class and hated it!". This, of course, led to a
discussion of what it was about, which led to a discussion of mid-19th
cen. literature, which led to a discussion of the less well known works
of Rousseau <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emile:_Or%2C_On_Education>
and from there onto the novel-before-movie
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Princess_Bride> version of The
Princess Bride <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/> . But around here
-- pretty much every discussion leads to TPB ... huuuum ... funny that.

Well --- it looks like the Google Book Search and ones we can download
for free is going to become part of my usual search for materials ritual
<http://www.bu.edu/disability/resources/alternative.html> .

Posted by D. Berkowitz to Access Technologists Higher Education Network
.html> at 8/31/2006 12:14:00 PM

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