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Scholars have long complained that information on the World Wide Web is uneven, unreliable, and often simply wrong. The Internet Archive and Google, in separate projects, are working to answer those complaints by providing access to millions of published books held by libraries around the world. However, the promise of those efforts still has some way to go before it is fulfilled.

The Internet Archive Million Book Project ( was announced on December 13, 2004. Unlike the Google project, the Million Book Project will offer full access to all of its titles, including printing and downloading of files. The project is reported to have some 10,611 books online now and expects to have another 50,000 in the first quarter of 2005.

On December 14, 2004, Google announced its project to "borrow" 15 million books from libraries at Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan, Oxford and the New York Public Library for scanning and eventual access on the Web ( While much broader than the Internet Archive project, Google's service will offer access for both searching and viewing of the scanned texts only through its interface.

Even at 15 million volumes, the Google project won't be able to substantially alter the ratio of good material to bad on the Web. However, it will provide access at a single location to a "core collection" that vastly exceeds any existing library collection in volume and ease of access.

The amount of commentary in less than a month on the Google project is vast but a quick summary (with links) was published in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, Issue #81 (

Content for the Google project is still under development. One source, Barbara Quint of Information Today, reported that Google and ProQuest (which could provide more than 100 years of dissertations and theses) are in conversation about the possibility of adding that content to the Google project ( There are numerous questions about technical aspects of the Google project.

From a scholar's perspective, the more interesting questions will be:

  • What new questions can be asked of texts when all of the related literature is available for searching?
  • What new roles will libraries and librarians play in assisting scholars and students in navigating a core collection that has 15 million unbound volumes and can return any page upon request?
  • Is "Google-style" searching sufficient for research in a collection this size?

Submit your experiences with either of these services and The Forum will return to the topic later in the year with a fuller review of the resources.

Patrick Durusau, Director of Research and Development at the Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta.

Citation: Patrick Durusau, " Search Any Book from Your Desk? Not Just Yet," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Feb 2005]. Online:


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