Pittsburgh: Nearly a decade ago, computer scientists at the Carnegie Mellon University embarked on an astonishing project wherein they decided to digitize the published works of humankind and make them freely available online.
Architects of the Universal Library project said on 27November that they have surpassed their latest target, having scanned more than 1.5 million books, many of them in Chinese. At last count, they were still scanning thousands of books on a daily basis.
Online collections match size of University libraries
“Anyone who can get on the Internet now has access to a collection of books the size of a large university library,” said Raj Reddy, who led the project and is a computer science and robotics professor at the university.
A huge part of the recent work in the Million Book Project has been carried out in India and China, helped by $3.5 million funding from the U.S National Science Foundation.
U.S, China and India have each contributed $10 million for the project, undertaken with partners at China’s Zhejiang University, India’s Indian Institute of Science and Egypt’s Library at Alexandria.
At least half the books are out of copyright or scanned with the permission of copyright holders. Excerpts of copyright-protected works are available, though organizers expect complete texts to become available eventually.
Traditional books sit pretty on ‘online shelves’
It is a step toward in the creation of an online library that would make traditionally published books available to all. The economic barriers to the distribution of knowledge are falling,said Reddy.
The library’s mission includes making vast amounts of information freely available and preserving rare and decaying texts, among other things, said a professor and copyright lawyer of the University.
The library so far has books published in 20 languages, including 970,000 in Chinese, 360,000 in English, 50,000 in the southern Indian language of Telugu and 40,000 in Arabic.