Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Competition for Google
A German Library for the 21st Century

By Manfred Dworschak - Spiegel Online.

The German Digital Library wants to make millions of books, films, images and audio recordings accessible online. More than 30,000 libraries, museums and archives are expected to contribute their digitized cultural artifacts. The idea, in part, is to compete with Google Books. But will it work?

On a good day this reader gets through as many as 1,216 pages per hour. Hissing quietly, devouring book after book. Now and then it says, "Pffft."

This is a state-of-the-art robot at work. It automatically scans every book placed open in front of it. A slender wedge drops down to the fold, sucks in a page from left and right and lifts the goods. It's photographed and with a gentle puff of air -- pffft -- the robot flips the page.

So it goes, day after day, at the Munich Digitization Center of the Bavarian State Library. Some 45,000 works have been scanned -- from the "Nibelungenlied" on parchment to an original score from the hand of Gustav Mahler.

Admittedly, treasures from the early years of book culture are generally scanned by hand. The robot surrenders when faced with fragile tomes, which can weigh up to half a hundredweight with leather bindings or wooden covers.

Eventually a new Internet portal will benefit from the riches of these Munich databases. The German Digital Library (Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, or DDB) will become an online center for millions of books, magazines, photographs and films. Libraries, museums and archives all over the country are expected to contribute digitized cultural artifacts.
Read more at Spiegel Online.

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