Google, Italian Culture Ministry sign book digitization pact

Google Books will digitize at least 1 million books that are not covered by copyright

Google and the Italian Culture Ministry have signed an agreement for the digitization of books held in Italy's two main national libraries, the first such pact between the U.S. company and a national government, the two sides announced Wednesday.

"Google Books will digitize at least 1 million books that are not covered by copyright and that constitute our cultural heritage," Mario Resca, director general for development at the Culture Ministry, said at a press conference in Rome.

Works by authors such as Dante, Machiavelli, Petrarch, Leopardi and Manzoni, whose ideas helped to forge Western culture, will be included in the project, which will scan public domain books published prior to 1868, before modern copyright law came about.

The non-exclusive agreement would make books available immediately and free of charge to people around the world, both on the Google Internet platform and on platforms controlled by the participating Italian libraries, Resca said.

The project, which begins with the scanning of books held in the national libraries in Rome and Florence, is expected to stimulate interest in Italian culture and a love of reading, Resca said. Google will create a scanning center that will employ around 100 people and the project will result in a saving of some US$100 million for the Italian government, he said.

Nikesh Arora, Google's president for global sales operations and business development, said the project reflected the vision of Google's founders "to organize the world's information and make it available to everyone." The Italian project would help to counter the current Anglo-centric bias of the Internet, Arora added.

"We all know knowledge is power. I grew up in India and I had to wait three months for a fellow student to return a book to the library before I could study for an exam," Arora said. "Coupled with our initiative around translations, we believe we can unleash this culture for people around the world."

The expertise of the Culture Ministry and library partners in Italy would be crucial for the selection of the most important works for inclusion in the project, Arora said. "The risk in the future is not too little information but too much information," he said.

Arora disputed Resca's price tag for the project. "$100 million is not our number. It will take us a lot, lot less. We have the most efficient technology in terms of digitization," he said. Google will not be setting advertisements against the books, Arora said. "Users come to us because they know they'll find what they're looking for on the Internet. The effort is to get to comprehensiveness, and it's hard to put a price on comprehensiveness," the Google executive said. The Google Books project already has more than 40 major libraries participating around the world, Arora said.

Arora also addressed the U.S. controversy over Google's digitization of "orphan works," which are covered by copyright but for which the copyright owners have not been traced and have not provided authorization.

"The conversation is specific to the orphan works in the United States. We have taken feedback from various interested groups and the government and are modifying the agreement to try and find a solution," Arora said.

In the U.S., the Department of Justice (DOJ) has come out against an agreement to settle copyright lawsuits brought against Google's book-scanning project by authors and publishers. The DOJ's criticisms are being reviewed by a judge.

Sandro Bondi, the Italian culture minister, said the books project demonstrated that the Internet was the opposite of a sinister, Orwellian force. Rather than spying on everybody, it was extending knowledge and culture to everyone, for free.

"A universal library has always been the dream of humanity. This utopia is now becoming a reality," Bondi said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GoogleGoogle books

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Philip Willan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?