Five years ago, Google began collecting out-of-print books from various sources to convert into digital downloads, ensuring their survival into the digital age. Some of these books are considered public domain, such as Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick and all of Shakespeare’s works. Since these works were published before 1923, their copyrights are no longer valid. Other books in Google’s collection are harder to find and have been out of print for years.
Google obtained these novels by asking to borrow the books from libraries around the world, including Harvard University’s Widener Library, which recently surpassed the JFK Library as the world’s largest. It is estimated that Google managed to download about 6 million out-of-print books.
Taking old novels and scanning them into a digital database has a its benefits; it ensures that even the world’s rarest books will survive into the future, even if the libraries holding the physical copies suffer from fire, water damage, or other disaster. This has been a great idea, especially for books that only survive in a few physical copies.
Now, Google is advancing the idea even further, allowing customers to buy paperback copies of these novels, printed from Google’s set of digital copies by a speedy printer. The printing machine, called The Espresso Machine, is located in Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The machine can print a paperback-bound book of about 300 pages in under five minutes, making it perfect for people who desire an inexpensive copy of the classics or a version of a hard-to-find book. At the moment, only the 2 million non-public domain books in Google’s collection are available for paperback printing, but Google is working on obtaining the printing rights for its other digital books as well. Google has suggested a retail of $8 per book, but the retail store will have final decision on pricing. For each book sold, Google will keep $1 of the proceeds, to be donated to charities.