Google vs. Project Gutenberg?

Upon reading about Google’s plans to digitize and make searchable the research libraries of UMich, Stanford, Harvard, the New York Public Library of Oxford (coverage, among other places: The New York Times, Boston Globe, Boing Boing, Joi Ito), I thought about my former coworkers at the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia. I wondered about their not being part of this announcement; the center has been involved for a long time with making public domain works available. In fact, I helped convert some texts to the center’s custom SGML format myself when I worked there ten years ago.

And many of the texts we worked with came from Project Gutenberg, the often discussed and more often ignored project to make out-of-copyright books electronically available to the public domain. I wonder, too, why their name isn’t on the announcement. And why none of the newspaper accounts even mentioned them.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. After all, Gutenberg’s texts are already searchable by Google. But why wouldn’t they hop into this project?