Google Books goes Dutch

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 9:15 AM

In recent months, I’ve got to know a group of people in the Hague who are working on an ambitious project to make the rich fabric of Dutch cultural and political history as widely accessible as possible - via the Internet.

That team is from the National Library of the Netherlands, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), and as of today, we'll be working in partnership to add to the library's own extensive digitisation efforts. We'll be scanning more than 160,000 of its public domain books, and making this collection available globally via Google Books. The library will receive copies of the scans so that they can also be viewed via the library's website. And significantly for Europe, the library also plans to make the digitised works available via Europeana, Europe's cultural portal.

The books we'll be scanning constitute nearly the library's entire collection of out-of-copyright books, written during the 18th and 19th centuries. The collection covers a tumultuous period of Dutch history, which saw the establishment of the country's constitution and its parliamentary democracy. Anyone interested in Dutch history will be able to access and view a fascinating range of works by prominent Dutch thinkers, statesmen, poets and academics and gain new insights into the development of the Netherlands as a nation state.

This is the third agreement we've announced in Europe this year, following our projects with the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Austrian National Library. The Dutch national library is already well underway with its own ambitious scanning programme, which will eventually see all of its Dutch books, newspapers and periodicals from 1470 onwards being made available online. By any measure, this is a huge task, requiring significant resources, and we're pleased to be able to help the library accelerate towards its goal of making all Dutch books accessible anywhere in the world, at the click of a mouse.

It's exciting to note just how many libraries and cultural ministries are now looking to preserve and improve access to their collections by bringing them online. Much of humanity's cultural, historical, scientific and religious knowledge, collected and curated over centuries, sits in Europe's libraries, and its great to see that we are all striving towards the same goal of improving access to knowledge for all.

Google and other technology companies have an important role to play in achieving this goal, and we hope that by partnering with major European cultural institutions such as the Dutch national library, we will be able to accelerate the rapid growth of Europe's digital library.

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)


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