Millions of free books to be put online

October 12, 2007

A consortium of US universities has taken a major step towards the mass digitisation of its book collections.

In a move that offers a non-profit alternative to commercial digitisation schemes offered by Google, Microsoft and Amazon, the Boston Library Consortium, comprising 19 US universities, is to scan the institutions' collections and make them available freely online.

The consortium consists of the libraries of Boston College, Boston Public Library, Boston University, Brandeis University, Brown University, the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, the State Library of Massachusetts, Tufts University, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, University of New Hampshire, Wellesley College and Williams College.

The consortium's scanning centre is located at the Boston Public Library. The consortium will offer high-resolution, downloadable, reusable files of public domain materials. Using Internet Archive technology, books from all 19 libraries will be scanned at a cost of just 10 cents per page. Collectively, the BLC member libraries provide access to over 34 million volumes.

Bernard Margolis, the library's president, said: "We are, in the most basic and important meaning of the word, 'enriching' the world. As we open these books we give opportunity for their use in many new and expanding ways for new and expanding audiences. We are doing what libraries are supposed to do."

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