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Turning the Pages uses 65-megapixel cameras to digitise the pages, and animates the turning process. Shown is a page from the library's copy of Leonardo da Vinci's codex.
"The system was developed with Armadillo Systems," explained Stephen Lilgert, head of infrastructure strategy and development at the British Library.
"It gives you the look and feel of turning the pages. At the launch of Vista, Bill Gates did one of the events here at the library itself. The codex was digitised and made available to people running Vista, and it will work with XP as well. With the Vista version, you can make notes on it," said Lilgert.
Versions are available for Adobe Shockwave on the PC and Mac, but a more detailed version is limited to Microsoft's Silverlight platform. No Linux version is available.
"We are moving the [Adobe] Shockwave version onto Microsoft's Silverlight technology," said Lilgert. "As I understand it, Microsoft has paid the [US] Library of Congress over $1m [£505m] to convert the whole of their website to Silverlight. The Shockwave one is okay, but it is still not the same level of zooming that you get with Silverlight."
The system currently does not turn the pages smoothly and they frequently "stick". However, it is still possible to get a feel of reading the original book.
The project has moved on with the close co-operation of Microsoft. "What [Microsoft] got out of it was a whole load of book content as they try to play catch-up with Google," Lilgert told ZDNet.co.uk.
"So they approached us — because we have a very good relationship with Microsoft on a whole host of things — about digitising a whole load of books. So what we got was someone who was going to help us with the funding of a large digitisation project and we were getting more experience on actually digitising the material in the first place," Lilgert said.
Photo credit: British Library