The Noblest Project I Can Imagine

Can you think of anything nobler than this? I sure can’t.

Every weekday, a truck pulls up to the Cecil H. Green Library, on the
campus of Stanford University, and collects at least a thousand books,
which are taken to an undisclosed location and scanned, page by page,
into an enormous database being created by Google. The company is also
retrieving books from libraries at several other leading universities,
including Harvard and Oxford, as well as the New York Public Library.
At the University of Michigan, Google’s original partner in Google Book
Search, tens of thousands of books are processed each week on the
company’s custom-made scanning equipment.

Google intends to scan every book ever published, and to make the full
texts searchable, in the same way that Web sites can be searched on the
company’s engine at


No one really knows how many books there are. The most volumes listed
in any catalogue is thirty-two million, the number in WorldCat, a
database of titles from more than twenty-five thousand libraries around
the world. Google aims to scan at least that many. “We think that we
can do it all inside of ten years,” Marissa Mayer, a vice-president at
Google who is in charge of the books project, said recently, at the
company’s headquarters, in Mountain View, California. “It’s
mind-boggling to me, how close it is. I think of Google Books as our
moon shot.”

Well, they better hurry up. With a market capitalization of one-hundred and fifty billion dollars, along with two co-founders worth fifteen billion each, it’s a substantial booty, and likely only a matter of time before those who care to think of themselves as "nobleman," but who are everything but, stoke up the public-relations envy and ego machine, wherein one of the greatest, most benevolent companies ever to have existed will suddenly, almost overnight, be seen as one of society’s greatest parasites.

Just ask Bill Gates, though I think he still hasn’t got that part of the equation figured out yet, or else he’s doing a great job of just keeping his mount shut. Who knows how many billions that saved him.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering? I haven’t addressed the copyright issue because it’ll be a red herring. Oh, sure, there will be endless posturing, but in the end, this will happen. And it will benefit authors and publishers. Trust me.


Update: I find I just have to add this other quote.

Such messianism cannot obscure the central truth about Google Book
Search: it is a business. Google has pledged not to show advertising
next to the pages of library books, but the company does sell
advertising alongside search results that lead to books obtained from
publishers. Google’s prospects for producing revenue from the books
project appear rather modest, but the company has often made a profit
on ventures that initially seemed unlikely to be lucrative. “We’ve had
this fortunate streak that when we’ve done things that have impacted
our users and society as a whole—positively, in a significant way—we’ve
been rewarded by that downstream in some way, even though we may not
have envisioned exactly what it was right offhand,” Sergey Brin told
me. “We didn’t have ads when we first put up Web search. It wasn’t
clear it was great business when we started search. In fact, the
companies that were doing search were moving away from it. But we just
thought it was important, and we thought that where there was a will
there would be a way.

Yep. That’s keeping the horse before the cart. And it’s elegant and noble.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

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