from ars technica:
Google went ahead and did it. Books no longer in copyright are now available for download from the Google Book Search site. If you’re looking for something tasty, might we recommend an early English translation of Montaigne’s provocative essay “On Some Verses of Virgil”? (Hint: the naughtiest bits are in the Latin epigrams, the worst of which aren’t even translated).
There’s plenty of precendent for this sort of thing. Project Gutenberg provides access to 19,000 classic books, but in a text-only format. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library offers both text and PDF versions of a massive collection of source material, but only one one particular topic. There’s also the Perseus Project, which offers ancient and Renaissance texts. Google could top all of these projects by providing fully-searchable versions of a much wider selection of books, many of which can also be downloaded as PDFs that are ready to print.
While this only applies to older books, it’s still a great way of democratizing access to the world’s knowledge (in English, at any rate), and it can’t raise any objections from publishers. Books which were before available only on the shelves of large academic libraries are now available to anyone with a Web connection and some curiosity. Scienta vincit omnia!
But not everyone is thrilled with the results so far. From Planet PDF:
There’s no doubt Google needs to be applauded for the idea, but the execution (i.e. the books they’ve produced) could definitely do with some work. The PDF books are difficult to download, large in size, of such low resolution they’re difficult to read, unsearchable, and do not allow the user to copy text from them. It’s left me wondering what Google expects people to do with the books.
And more critique here.