Over 100,000 old books previously unavailable to the public will go online thanks to a mass digitization programme at the British Library.
"If there are no modern editions teachers cannot use them for their courses. What we can read now is predetermined by a long tradition of what has been considered great literature," said Dr Kristian Jensen of the British Library.
At full production approximately 50,000 pages per working day will be scanned. Approximately 30 terabytes of storage will be required to accommodate the project’s output. The first 25 million pages are expected to take two years to complete. Texts which are hard to get hold of will particularly benefit from the digitization. "By digitizing the whole collection, we give access to the books without the filter of later judgments, whether based on taste or on the economics of printing and publishing," Dr Jensen said.
The new category of digitized titles will supplement other early historic printed books which the British Library has already made available for viewing online through previous projects.
Those are included in two commercial resources: the Early English Books Online and the Eighteenth Century Collections Online.
Both collections are freely available to higher education institutions in the .
Other digital resources in the British Library will soon include two million pages of 19 Century newspapers and one million pages of 18th Century newspapers.
Digitized publications will be accessible in two ways -initially through Microsoft’s Live Search Books and then via the Library’s website.
The books will be fully text searchable, meaning users will be able to look for keywords within a publication, making research easier and enhancing interaction with the material.
Whereas Microsoft is working with the British Library, Google is digitizing the work of five of the world’s other renowned libraries – , Harvard, and Michigan university libraries, the New York public library and the Bodleian library in .
Due to copyright restrictions and intellectual property issues, the agreement between Microsoft and the British Library covers only "public domain" materials.
"We have taken great care to exclude 19th Century works by authors who died after 1936, for there is copyright in the item for 70 years after the death of the author," Jensen said.