May 26, 2017

Google Enabling Free Downloads Of Old Books

Google Book Search is now making available PDF versions of out-of-print books in its system. As Philipp points out, the PDF files come with a mostly unobtrusive…

…”Hosted by Google” logo in the bottom right hand corner of every page, as well as a message at the beginning:

Links: Google Book Search, As Phillip points out

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project to make the world’s books discoverable online.

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that’s often difficult to discover.

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file – a reminder of this book’s long journey from the publisher to a library and finally to you.

Usage guidelines

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google’s system: If you are conducting research on machine translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Maintain attribution The Google “watermark” you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can’t offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book’s appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About Google Book Search

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers discover the world’s books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web at

The PDF quality looks pretty good, even if there is writing in some of the books. Students could probably print out books needed for classes, rather than having to pay for a three hundred year old book. Philipp asks the all-important question: “Does Google have the legal right to restrict usage of public domain works?” I’d have to read up on my copyright law, but Google may own the images even if they don’t own the content.

What I don’t like: Google clearly ran Optical Character Recognition on all their books, since the text is searchable in Google Book Search. So why isn’t the text of the PDF searchable? If Google had allowed you to select the text in the PDF, you could copy and paste it into Microsoft Word; as is, they are little more than pictures of text.

More coverage by Danny Sullivan, the Associated Press and a list of some books at the Google Blog.


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Nathan Weinberg
About Nathan Weinberg 272 Articles
Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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