Google Strikes Deals for Library Content

Google reached agreements with several major research libraries to digitize the content of thousands of books in their archives, adding momentum to the search giant's effort to catalog vast amounts of offline information in addition to Web pages, the company said yesterday.

Google announced that it is working with the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford and the New York Public Library. Google will scan millions of books, making their contents searchable through Google. Google is funding the project, which The New York Times said likely would cost $10 per book scanned. The agreements cover about 15 million books and other documents.

The deals fall under the Google Print program, which scans the content of books from participating publishers such as HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin. Searchers can view excerpts and bibliographic information of copyrighted material, though Google will make all non-copyrighted material available.

Google said the initiative, which could take more than a decade to complete, is an important step in its mission to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

By supporting the project with its own ample cash reserves, which topped $1.8 billion at the end of the third quarter, Google is keeping its promise to place big bets on high-risk initiatives whose commercial outcomes are uncertain.

Google Print includes paid listings tied to searches and links to buy books from online sellers like Amazon, Barnes& and Google's comparison-shopping site, Froogle. Google Print publishers share in revenue generated from clicks on the paid listings. Like most Google products, Google Print is integrated with its flagship search engine, meaning users will receive book-related information tied to search terms.

The agreements and similar products such as desktop search let Google take advantage of its vast computer resources. Google chief financial officer George Reyes recently tabbed the company's 100,000-plus computers in data centers as a key competitive advantage to fend off challenges from well-financed rivals Microsoft and Yahoo.

The integration of products like Google Print and Google Desktop with Google's search engine could tie users more closely to Google and provide a disincentive to switch search engines.

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