Google Library Partnership

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U-M Library Digitization | Google Print

The University of Michigan has partnered with Google, Inc. in an ambitious project to digitize the bound print volumes of the University’s library collection. The digitization project will provide scholars and the general public with an unprecedented ability to search for and locate books from the University’s vast collection. This initiative has the potential to revolutionize the way the world’s knowledge is transmitted and to democratize access to information. In addition, university libraries are uniquely tasked by the public to be repositories of human knowledge and information. The digital archive resulting from this project significantly advances the University of Michigan’s ability to meet that responsibility.


Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about this partnership:

Questions and Answers

Why did the University enter into partnership with Google?

It is tremendously important that the University of Michigan’s remarkable print collections be digitally archived and widely available for education, research and the needs of future generations. As a leader in digital archival and preservation efforts among research libraries, the U-M Library has been digitizing material for many years, but our partnership with Google will permit us to accomplish this task on a scope and scale that could not have been achieved. As a great public university, the U-M’s core mission is to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge — on campus and beyond. We believe that today, when people search first for information on the internet, our great library resources should be available for them to discover. And our archival efforts will ensure that the material stays available for generations to come.

Are other libraries involved with the Google Books Library project?

Yes. Google library partners include: Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford universities and the New York Public Library.

How long will the project take?

Google’s innovative technology will allow them to scan the U-M Library’s collection of nearly 7 million volumes in about six years. The University has been digitizing works for years, but at a substantially slower pace. At the rate we were scanning, it would have taken more than 1,000 years to digitize just our current collections.

What is an example of the University of Michigan ’s current digitization initiatives?

The Making of America, a project initiated in 1995, digitized 9,000 volumes from the University’s collection. Volumes documenting American social history from before the Civil War through Reconstruction are now available online. The project was funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and done in collaboration with Cornell University.

Is the University’s contract with Google available for public viewing?

Yes, the cooperative agreement is available online.

How long has the University of Michigan been working with Google on this project?

Google began discussing this project with the University of Michigan Library in 2002. U-M served as the premiere testing site for Google’s non-destructive scanning technology. In addition, the digitization workflow was first implemented at U-M. Google began scanning books at U-M sometime after April 2004 with the pilot phase ending in April of 2005.

How is the project being funded?

All direct costs are borne by Google, including scanning costs, necessary costs related to conversion and transmission of data, and all costs related to pulling and reshelving materials. The University of Michigan bears no direct costs in its cooperative effort with Google, nor does it receive any royalties or other direct payments from Google.

What information will be scanned?

Through agreement with the University, Google employees are scanning and indexing most of the University’s bound print collection of nearly 7 million volumes. Although special collections, extremely large materials (e.g., folio format) and unbound materials will not be included at this time, we are working with Google to deploy procedures and technology to accommodate these materials as well. Over time the project will encompass books from all different parts of the library on every imaginable subject.

How many of the U-M libraries are included in the project?

The University Library system, including its 19 separate libraries, are included in the project. The Bentley Historical Library, the Clements Library, Kresge Business Administration Library, and the Law Library are not included in the project.

Are you scanning books in multiple languages?

Yes. The University holds books in multiple languages and almost 40% of the Library collection is non-English. For example, approximately 5.3% is French language, 5.75% is German language and 2.4% is Spanish language. Books in these and many other languages will be digitized as part of this project. Naturally, this is just a snapshot of the library as it stands today; we, of course, continue to acquire additional volumes.

Will scanning harm the books?

No. Google developed innovative technology to scan the contents without harming the book. Any book that we deem too fragile will not be scanned. Once scanned, the book is returned to the library collection.

Can the public see the scanning facility and process?

Google does not permit public access to the scanning facility.

Will I be able to read an entire book online?

If the book has no copyright restrictions and is considered in the public domain, the full text will be available for online viewing. For books under copyright only a few sentences surrounding the search term will be available. In general, the Google Books Library project is designed to help people discover books, not read them from start to finish online.

How will Google determine if a work is in the public domain?

Whether a book is in the public domain is a complex legal determination; how we will treat books published at different times is less complex. For users in the United States, the Google Books Library project treats all books published after 1922 as protected by copyright, except for books to which no copyright was attached in the first instance, such as books authored by the U.S. government. Google will be conservative in its reading of both copyright law and the known facts surrounding a particular book.

Does Google or the U-M own the copyright to a work once they scan it?

No. Copyright holders maintain copyright over their work and public domain work remains in the public domain.

What if a publisher does not want its books scanned?

Although we believe there are many business advantages for publishers and authors to participate in the Google Books Library project, they can exclude their books from the project. Copyright holders who wish to remove their books from the project can do so online.

How does the Google Books Library project benefit authors, publishers, and other copyright holders?

Authors and publishers will benefit because the project will make it easier for readers to find relevant books. Google hopes to guide more users to books — specifically books they might not be able to find any other way — all the while carefully respecting authors’ and publishers’ copyrights. Google’s goal is to work with publishers and authors to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers find new readers. Along with helping people find books, Google will give users direct links to where they can buy or borrow a copy.

What will a scanned book look like? How will I search for it?

You will be able to search via Google Book Search. For results returning work in the public domain you will be able to click through all the pages of the book. For search results returning library books still in copyright, you will be able to find the book, but Google will only display bibliographic information and a few sentences surrounding the search term in the book. All search results will have a link which allows you to find that book in a library or bookstore. Please visit About Google Book Search to see how books will be displayed and what features will be available.

When will I be able to search for books through Google Book Search?

You can right now. Google released the first batch of public domain library books in the fall of 2005.

Does Google or the University profit when I buy a book from a Google Book Search page?

As mentioned above, Google Books Library search results provide links to booksellers. The booksellers do not pay for the links. Neither Google nor any library partner benefits if you buy something from one of these retailers.

Does Google display ads on books scanned from the Library?

No. There are no advertisements on the books that are scanned from a library. Please visit the About Google Book Search to see more about how library books will be displayed.

Does Google track the books I read?

Google Book Search uses the existing cookie to determine how much book content to display. Google does not rent, sell or share what pages a user has viewed with third parties for any purpose without the user’s permission or as described in their privacy policy. Google strongly encourages you to read its privacy policy to be fully informed about how your confidentiality is protected.

The Agreement says the University Library will receive a copy of the digitized collection. What will the library do with this copy?

The copy will be put in a digital archive. Having a copy allows the Library to archive and curate the printed record in digital form. Without this archival effort, there is a substantial risk that entire bodies of work will be lost. The lesson of the Library of Alexandria, where through a series of natural disasters and intentional appropriations hundreds of thousands of manuscripts were lost has been well learned. And recently, the flood waters and resulting mold caused by Hurricane Katrina damaged or destroyed countless documents housed in southern libraries. A digital archive will help ensure that the University Library’s printed record is preserved for future generations.

The use of the archive is for preservation, and so while many copyrighted materials will be in the archive for that purpose, they will also remain in a “dark” part of the archive to comply with copyright law. Thus, before anyone will be able to make any use of any aspect of the archive, the University will have to be convinced that the use would be permitted under copyright law.

The archive will not replace purchases. The University spends an extraordinary amount of money on library acquisitions. Last year, the University Library spent approximately $16 million dollars purchasing books, periodicals, and licenses to digital resources. The University is zealously committed to expanding the size of its many collections. Furthermore, our libraries have established criteria to determine when to purchase replacement copies of books or to purchase additional copies. These criteria will continue to determine when we replace or purchase additional books and will not be influenced by the digital archive.

Some have speculated that with a digital copy of the library, students, faculty, and staff will no longer need to visit the library because we will make the entire archive accessible to the University community. Providing access to materials that are in copyright—particularly those that are in print—would be an unlawful use of the archive. Merely because we posses a digital copy of a work does not mean that we are authorized to distribute it to people who would ordinarily have access to the hard copy.

Why is it important to maintain a digital archive of library materials?

Universities are the only entities tasked by the public with the ability to preserve the vast spectrum of written works, and specific editions of written works, that otherwise would eventually be lost to society. Many of the works in question are out of print, and will not be produced by a publisher in the future. Some of these books exist only in libraries. Others are in brittle condition and will ultimately be lost if they are not preserved through digital means. The role of archiving and preserving written works is an essential function of university libraries.

How will the project affect the Library’s conservation of its print collection?

The University’s commitment to the conservation and preservation of books as physical objects will not diminish. We will continue to actively acquire material in all formats and we will continue to conserve them.

What about security concerns? What is the Library doing to make sure the University’s copy is not stolen nor the database hacked into?

The University Library takes seriously security issues surrounding its copy of the digital files. Over the years, the University Library has been responsible for storing and providing access to significant bodies of published material with attendant intellectual property issues. In all of these cases, the Library has employed a combination of stringent system level security and rights management control to ensure that access to the files takes place only in sanctioned, appropriate ways. These same types of measures are being applied to the files created as part of this conversion process.

On September 20, 2005 , a lawsuit was filed against Google for copyright infringement related to the digitization project. Was the University of Michigan named as a defendant?

No, neither the University of Michigan nor any of the library partners were named in the suit.

Was the lawsuit expected?

The lawsuit was disappointing, but not unexpected. At each moment in history when new technology is developed for distributing reading material, society reexamines the needs and rights of authors, publishers, and readers. The telegraph, the penny press, in fact, even the first free public libraries were all initially controversial.

Does this project comply with copyright law?

Yes. This project was undertaken with careful attention to the law and to the rights and responsibilities of the various parties involved. The purpose of copyright law is to promote progress in society. We are confident that the Books Library project is fully consistent with the fair use doctrine under U.S. copyright law and the principles underlying copyright law itself. Copyright law strikes a balance between rewarding creators of intellectual property for their creations and facilitating public access to these works in ways that do not create a business harm. For books, this means ensuring authors write books, publishers sell them and libraries lend them. By making books more discoverable, Google is enhancing the ability of authors and publishers to sell books to an audience beyond the traditional book market.

Has Google stopped scanning books at the U-M as a result of the lawsuit?

No. The process continues today. In August, as a courtesy Google self-imposed a brief halt on scanning copyrighted works. The halt allowed, among other things, authors and publishers a chance to exclude their books from the project. During this hiatus Google continued to scan public domain works. The hiatus ended on November 1, 2005.

Where can I find more information about the Google Books Library project?

Please see the Google Book Search website or the University of Michigan’s library digitization project site for more information.

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