EU urges Google, libraries to cooperate to put books on-line
The EU plans to more than double the total of digitised items available via Europeana to 10 million by the end of next year.
Brussels -- The European Commission is calling on libraries and museums to cooperate with i-tech outfits such as Google to put more of Europe's heritage on line.
While debate rages, notably in France, over the merits of a Googled world, the EU's executive arm gave a progress report on its own Europeana on-line library project which began late last year with the help of major public libraries and European museums.
Inspired by ancient Alexandria's attempt to collect the world's knowledge, Europeana allows users to access films, paintings, photographs, sound recordings, maps, manuscripts, newspapers, and documents as well as books.
In its first nine months of existence the number of documents available at www.europeana.eu has increased to 4.6 million.
However Brussels wants to go further.
It plans to more than double the total of digitised items available via Europeana to 10 million by the end of next year.
But it would also be quite happy if private enterprises such as Google, which already has a massive online literary catalogue in Google Books, will take the lead, especially given the expense involved.
It will be "a Herculean task" stressed EU Communications Commissioner Viviane Reding.
The commission "supports an approach that is open to private-sector initiatives and to technological innovation," the EU Commission said in a statement Thursday.
In order to facilitate the process of making such works available to every home with a computer, the commission is set to launch a vast consultation exercise to start next month and end on November 15.
The EU has found its own efforts hampered by authors' rights rules, which differ across Europe.
Therefore all he books available on Europeana are in the public domain, which means the author must have died at least 70 years ago.
A solution is also needed to deal with the problem of "orphan books" where there is no information on the author, who may or may not be dead.
Brussels is also suggesting the creation of a European "register" which would allow the sale of e-books by living authors but which are out of print in the printed version.