Digital Books: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Books digitizing Google - click for more

Books digitizing Google - click for more

Original post:   29 April 2008

I know Google started this project over five years ago, but the AP (that’s the Associated Press for you twenty-somethings out there) just carried another story about Google’s quest to digitize the world.  Or at least digitize the publications of the world.  Or, well, gee, at least to digitize 28 major library’s collections, including the major library of ancient books at the University of Michigan.   (Article published April 25th, see it here).  
It is a fascinating project and you can see for yourself some of the results at books.google.com.   One of my hobbies is astronomy and I found a number of digitized (and indexed via optical scanning technology) astronomy books from the 1800’s, as well as “limited previews” of more recent texts.  Certainly this will be a treasure trove for anyone interested in historical research or preserving historic books.
But even more interesting is the possibility of preserving one’s own personal history (or family history) in digital form.   I’ve already “digitized” images of a few personal artifacts, e.g. the book of my great-grandfather’s funeral with signatures from 1943, or the book (cover at least) of Taschenbuch fur Kaufleute, a German language business handbook copyright 1872 which has the only physical copy of my great great grandmother Frantisek Srajer’s signature.  There are, probably, very very few of my 100-plus cousins who are interested in the family genealogy, but there might be a great granddaughter who wonders where all the artifacts went.   And maybe there is a long-lost cousin in Bohemia searching for Srajer family material today.  Wouldn’t it be great if all that material would be on the Internet and available right now?   Think of the social and family connections you could build!
Now if I could just get Google to scan it all for me and put it up online …

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