Google Book Search

Google Book Search

"Google Book" redirects here. For the children's book, see The Google Book.
This article is about Google's book search engine. For Google's e-book store, see Google Play.
Google Books
Developer(s) Google
Operating system Any (web-based application)
Type Online book search

Google Books (previously known as Google Book Search and Google Print) is a service from Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition, and stored in its digital database.[1]

The service was formerly known as 'Google Print' when it was introduced at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2004. Google's Library Project, (also now known as 'Google Book Search'), was announced in December 2004.

How it works

Results from Google Books show up in both Google Web Search and the dedicated Google Books site ( Up to three results from the Google Books index may be displayed, if relevant, above other search results in Google Web Search.

A click on a result from Google Books opens an interface in which the user may view pages from the book, if out of copyright or if the copyright owner has given permission. Books in the public domain are available in "full view" and free for download. For in-print books where permission has been granted, the number of viewable pages is limited to a "preview" set by a variety of access restrictions and security measures, some based on user-tracking.[2] For books where permission for a "preview" has been refused, only permission for "snippets" (two to three lines of text) may be permitted, but the full text of the book is searchable on this limited basis. Where the owner of a book cannot be identified, a "snippet" view may be implemented. For other books that have neither a "full view" nor "preview", the text is not searchable at all, and Google Books provides no identification of content beyond the book title. For this reason, Google Books searches are an unreliable indicator of the prevalence of specific usages or terms, because many authoritative works fall into the unsearchable category. In addition, even for available pages, a Google Book search for a specifically worded piece of text can fail to turn up the relevant sources, particularly if that text appears in a footnote, a figure caption, a boxed insert, or inside some quotation from a consulted source.

Most scanned works are no longer in print or commercially available.[3] For those which are, the site provides links to the website of the publisher and booksellers.

Many of the books are scanned using the Elphel 323 camera[4][5] at a rate of 1,000 pages per hour.[6] The scanning process is subject to errors. For example, some pages are unreadable, or upside down, or in the wrong order. Book information such as authors, publishers, dates and so on, may be incorrect or abbreviated incoherently..



December 2004 Google signaled an extension to its Google Print initiative known as the Google Print Library Project.[7] Google announced partnerships with several high-profile university and public libraries, including the University of Michigan, Harvard (Harvard University Library), Stanford (Green Library), Oxford (Bodleian Library), and the New York Public Library. According to press releases and university librarians, Google plans to digitize and make available through its Google Books service approximately 15 million volumes within a decade. The announcement soon triggered controversy, as publisher and author associations challenged Google's plans to digitize, not just books in the public domain, but also titles still under copyright.


September–October 2005 Two lawsuits against Google charge that the company has not respected copyrights and has failed to properly compensate authors and publishers. One is a class action suit on behalf of authors (Authors Guild v. Google, Sept. 20 2005) and the other is a civil lawsuit brought by five large publishers and the Association of American Publishers. (McGraw Hill v. Google, Oct. 19 2005)[8][9][10][11][12][13]

November 2005: Google changed the name of this service from Google Print to Google Book Search.[14] Its program enabling publishers and authors to include their books in the service was renamed "Google Books Partner Program"[15] and the partnership with libraries became Google Books Library Project.


August 2006: The University of California System announced that it would join the Books digitization project. This includes a portion of the 34 million volumes within the approximately 100 libraries managed by the System.[16]

September 2006: The Complutense University of Madrid becomes the first Spanish-language library to join the Google Books Library Project.[17]

October 2006: The University of Wisconsin–Madison announced that it would join the Book Search digitization project along with the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. Combined, the libraries have 7.2 million holdings.[18]

November 2006: The University of Virginia joined the project. Its libraries contain more than five million volumes and more than 17 million manuscripts, rare books and archives.[19]


January 2007: The University of Texas at Austin announced that it would join the Book Search digitization project. At least one million volumes will be digitized from the University's 13 library locations.

March 2007: The Bavarian State Library announced a partnership with Google to scan more than a million public domain and out-of-print works in German as well as English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.[20]

May 2007: A book digitizing project partnership was announced jointly by Google and the Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne.[21]

May 2007: The Boekentoren Library of Ghent University will participate with Google in digitizing and making digitized versions of 19th century books in the French and Dutch languages available online.[22]

June 2007: The Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) announced that its twelve member libraries would participate in scanning 10 million books over the course of the next six years.[23]

July 2007: Keio University became Google's first library partner in Japan with the announcement that they would digitize at least 120,000 public domain books.[24]

August 2007: Google announced that it would digitize up to 500,000 both copyrighted and public domain items from Cornell University Library. Google will also provide a digital copy of all works scanned to be incorporated into the university's own library system.[25]

September 2007: Google added a feature that allows users to share snippets of books that are in the public domain. The snippets may appear exactly as they do in the scan of the book or as plain text.[26]

September 2007: Google debuted a new feature called "My Library" which allows users to create personal customized libraries, selections of books that they can label, review, rate, or full-text search.[27]

December 2007: Columbia University was added as a partner in digitizing public domain works.[28]


May 2008: Microsoft tapered off and planned to end its scanning project which reached 750,000 books and 80 million journal articles.[29]

October 2008: A settlement was reached between the publishing industry and Google after two years of negotiation. Google agreed to compensate authors and publishers in exchange for the right to make millions of books available to the public.[8][30]

November 2008: Google reached the 7 million book mark for items scanned by Google and by their publishing partners. 1 million are in full preview mode and 1 million are fully viewable and downloadable public domain works. About five million are currently out of print.[3][31][32]

December 2008: Google announces the inclusion of magazines in Google Books. Titles include New York Magazine, Ebony, Popular Mechanics, and others.[33][34]


May 2009: At the annual BookExpo convention in New York, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google.[35]

In December 2009 a French court shut down the scanning of copyrighted books published in France saying it violated copyright laws. It was the first major legal loss for the scanning project.[36]


April 2010: Visual artists were not included in the previous lawsuit and settlement, and are the plaintiff groups in another lawsuit, and say they intend to bring more than just Google Books under scrutiny. “The new class action,” reads the statement, “goes beyond Google’s Library Project, and includes Google’s other systematic and pervasive infringements of the rights of photographers, illustrators and other visual artists.”[37]

May 2010 : It is reported that Google will launch a digital book store termed as Google Editions.[38] It will compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and other electronic book retailers with its very own e-book store. Unlike others, Google Editions will be completely online and will not require a specific device (such as kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.).

June 2010: Google passes 12 million books scanned.[39]

August 2010: It was announced that Google intends to scan all known existing 129,864,880 books by the end of the decade, accounting to over 4 billion digital pages and 2 trillion words in total.[39]

December 2010: Google eBooks (Google Editions) is launched in the US.[40]


March 2011: A federal judge rejects the settlement reached between the publishing industry and Google.[41]


March 2012 Google passes 20 million books scanned.[42][43]


January 2013 Google and the World Brain documentary is shown in the Sundance Film Festival.[44]

April 2013 Google's database encompasses more than 30 million scanned books.[45]

Google Books Library Project participants

The number of participating institutions has grown since the inception of the Google Books Library Project;[7] The University of Mysore has been mentioned in many media reports as being a library partner.[46][47] They are not, however, listed as a partner by Google.[48]

Initial partners

Additional partners

Other institutional partners have joined the Project since the partnership was first announced.

Scanning of books

The Google Books initiative has been hailed for its potential to offer unprecedented access to what may become the largest online body of human knowledge[70][71] and promoting the democratization of knowledge,[72] but it has also been criticized for potential copyright violations.[8][72]

As of April 2013, the number of scanned books was over 30 million, but the scanning process has slowed down.[43][45] Google estimated in 2010 that there were about 130 million unique books in the world,[39][73] and stated that it intended to scan all of them by the end of the decade.[39]

Copyright infringement, fair use and related issues

The Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers separately sued Google in 2005 for its book project, citing "massive copyright infringement." Google countered that its project represented a fair use and is the digital age equivalent of a card catalog with every word in the publication indexed.[8] The lawsuits were consolidated, and eventually a settlement was proposed. The settlement received significant criticism on a wide variety of grounds, including antitrust, privacy, and inadequacy of the proposed classes of authors and publishers. The settlement was eventually rejected,[74] and the publishers settled with Google soon after. The Authors Guild continued its case, and in 2011 their proposed class was certified. Google appealed that decision, with a number of amici asserting the inadequacy of the class, and the Second Circuit rejected the class certification in July 2013, remanding the case to the District Court for consideration of Google's fair use defense.[75]

Other lawsuits followed the Authors Guild's lead. In 2006 a German lawsuit, previously filed, was withdrawn.[76] In June 2006, Hervé de la Martinière,[77] a French publisher known as La Martinière and Éditions du Seuil,[78] announced its intention to sue Google France.[79] In 2009, the Paris Civil Court awarded 300,000 (approximately 430,000) in damages and interest and ordered Google to pay €10,000 a day until it removes the publisher's books from its database.[78][80] The court wrote, "Google violated author copyright laws by fully reproducing and making accessible" books that Seuil owns without its permission[78] and that Google "committed acts of breach of copyright, which are of harm to the publishers".[77] Google said it will appeal.[78] Syndicat National de l'Edition, which joined the lawsuit, said Google has scanned about 100,000 French works under copyright.[78]

In December 2009, Chinese author Mian Mian filed a civil lawsuit for $8,900 against Google for scanning her novel, Acid Lovers. This is the first such lawsuit to be filed against Google in China.[81] Also, in November that year, the China Written Works Copyright Society (CWWCS) accused Google of scanning 18,000 books by 570 Chinese writers without authorization. Google agreed on Nov 20 to provide a list of Chinese books it had scanned, but the company refused to admit having "infringed" copyright laws.[82]

In March 2007, Thomas Rubin, associate general counsel for copyright, trademark, and trade secrets at Microsoft, accused Google of violating copyright law with their book search service. Rubin specifically criticized Google's policy of freely copying any work until notified by the copyright holder to stop.[83]

Google licensing of public domain works is also an area of concern due to using of digital watermarking techniques with the books. Some published works that are in the public domain, such as all works created by the U.S. Federal government, are still treated like other works under copyright, and therefore locked after 1922.[84]

Language issues

Some European politicians and intellectuals have criticized Google's effort on linguistic imperialism grounds. They argue that because the vast majority of books proposed to be scanned are in English, it will result in disproportionate representation of natural languages in the digital world. German, Russian, French, and Spanish, for instance, are popular languages in scholarship. The disproportionate online emphasis on English, however, could shape access to historical scholarship, and, ultimately, the growth and direction of future scholarship. Among these critics is Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the former president of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.[85]

Google Books versus Google Scholar

While Google Books has digitized large numbers of journal back issues, its scans do not include the metadata required for identifying specific articles in specific issues. This has led the makers of Google Scholar to start their own program to digitize and host older journal articles (in agreement with their publishers).[86]

Similar projects

  • Internet Archive is a non-profit which digitizes over 1000 books a day, as well as mirrors books from Google Books and other sources. As of May 2011, it hosted over 2.8 million public domain books, greater than the approximate 1 million public domain books at Google Books.[87] Open Library, a sister project of Internet Archive, lends 80,000 scanned and purchased commercial ebooks to the visitors of 150 libraries.[88]
  • HathiTrust maintains HathiTrust Digital Library since 13 October 2008,[89] which preserves and provides access to material scanned by Google, some of the Internet Archive books, and some scanned locally by partner institutions. As of May 2010, it includes about 6 million volumes, over 1 million of which are public domain (at least in the US).
  • Microsoft funded the scanning of 300,000 books to create Live Search Books in late 2006. It ran until May 2008, when the project was abandoned[90] and the books were made freely available on the Internet Archive restriction.[91]
  • Europeana links to roughly 10 million digital objects as of 2010, including video, photos, paintings, audio, maps, manuscripts, printed books, and newspapers from the past 2,000 years of European history from over 1,000 archives in the European Union.[92][93]
  • Gallica from the French National Library links to about 800,000 digitized books, newspapers, manuscripts, maps and drawings, etc. Created in 1997, the digital library continues to expand at a rate of about 5000 new documents per month. Since the end of 2008, most of the new scanned documents are available in image and text formats. Most of these documents are written in French.

See also


External links

  • Google Books homepage
  • Google Books Information Page
  • Gallica, the digital side of the French National Library
  • Google's Moon Shot
  • – an experiment that prints public domain books from Google Books
  • Robert Darnton – Google & the Future of Books