Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Readers get online access to 1.5 million books

Good news from The Million Book Project - This international academic venture has just has completed the digitization of more than 1.5 million books, which are now available online. reported yesterday that "For the first time since the project was initiated in 2002, all of the books, which range from Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” to “The Analects of Confucius,” are available through a single Web portal of the Universal Library (, said Gloriana St. Clair, Carnegie Mellon’s dean of libraries. "

Prof. Raj Reddy, of the department of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon added that “this project brings us closer to the ideal of the Universal Library: making all published works available to anyone, anytime, in any language. The economic barriers to the distribution of knowledge are falling.”

Most of the books can not be read free of charge yet. Currently about half of the current collection remains under copyright, and until the permission of the copyright holders can be documented, or copyright laws are amended, only 10 percent or less of those books can be accessed at no cost. Still there's something to look for - at least half of its books are out of copyright, or were digitized with the permission of the copyright holders, so the complete texts are or eventually will be available free.

Though Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon and the Internet Archive all have launched major book digitization projects, the Million Book Project represents the world’s largest, university-based digital library of freely accessible books. When asked how the Million Book Project fits in with the other book scanning projects, Dr. Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who is the project's director, called those projects "fellow travelers."

These are great news for book lovers, for people who support the distribution of knowledge to all and of course for the environment. I hope the digitalization and the easy accessibility of so many books will mean eventually that less trees will be cut down.

So, check it out and look for this great source of unique books at And if you choose to print a book at home, please don't forget to print it on recycled paper..

Raz @ Eco-Libris