Google Books and the British Library have formed a partnership to digitize 250,000 out-of-copyright books from 1700 to 1870. That means that the public will have access to some 40 million pages of books, pamphlets, and periodicals covering a turbulent period that saw both the American and French Revolutions, the invention of the telegraph and rail travel, and the end of slavery. Oh, and Google is footing the bill entirely.
The project is anticipated to take several years, but the first items on the slate for digitization are feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette (1791), a story about the invention of the first combustion engine-driven submarine (1858), and an account of a stuffed Hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange (1775), according to the British Library's press release.
Once scanned, the British Library and Google Books will both have the texts available for text search, reading, and download right from the website. And the British Library will also keep copies in their digital vault for safekeeping. This makes them around the 40th library to strike a similar deal with Google Books.
For their part, the Google Books digitization partnership represents an extension of the British Library's Vision 2020 plan, which calls for the 258-year-old institution to leverage modern technology to improve public access to their storehouses of information.
Of course, this isn't their first foray into book digitization: both Microsoft and brightsolid have contributed to the British Library's digital archiving efforts in the past few years.