Saturday, December 13, 2008

What is Google doing to the books it scans?

Google Books has a voracious appetite for out-of-copyright books, which can be good news for those of us who root around in them for tidbits like pigs in the forest hunting truffles. But what is Google doing to those books, many of which are old and fragile? Have you ever asked yourself how the scan gets there in the first place? I assume it has to go on a scanning bed, which means (potentially) cracking the spine and/or damaging pages to get a good, clear image. This photograph is a screen shot I took directly from Google Books. Does this book look damaged to you? Of course, we don't know if Google caused that damage, but how does it ensure that books are protected?

(And lest you think I'm worrying over nothing, remember what happened to many old newspapers in the early days of document scanning. Many libraries scanned all of their historic newspapers and then tossed them, often throwing away priceless literary research in the process.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are non-destructive scanning solutions out there! The Kirtas APT 2400 automatic book scanner actually is more gentle turning pages than the human hand. Kirtas uses a patented cradle that holds the book gently not allowing the book to open too far thus damaging the spine etc. You can see their family of digitization products at