Google struck a deal with the British Library to scan 250,000 books that are out of copyright, part of the search engine's ongoing mission to organize the world's books online and make them available to users.
Intended to help literary scholars and other parties interested in academic pursuits, the project includes printed books, pamphlets and periodicals published from 1700 to 1870. Google will deliver the content, which covers up to 40 million pages, free through the Google Books service.
Researchers, students and others will be able to view historical material, and download, share and manipulate content for "non-commercial purposes," the British Library said in a statement.
The works cover important inventions such as railroad travel, the telegraph, and the first combustion engine-driven submarine, as well as the end of slavery and the French and Industrial Revolutions.
Google will assume the cost of digitizing the works, which will be available for full text search, download and reading via Google Books. The content will also be searchable through the British Library's Website and stored in the library's digital archive.
Google declined to say what the cost of scanning and storing the books was, adding that it was a "substantial sum."
"We are delighted to be partnering with Google on this project and through this partnership believe that we are building on this proud tradition of giving access to anyone, anywhere and at any time," said British Library Chief Executive Dame Lynne Brindley in a statement, noting that this is a major departure from buying books and making them available in reading rooms.
The first works to be digitized in the corpus include feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette (1791) and a story about a stuffed hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange (1775).
To this point, Google has scanned more than 13 million books from more than 40 libraries worldwide through Google Books.
However, it has reached a roadblock in trying to get a U.S. district court to get it to agree that its proposed settlement to put millions of orphaned, out-of-print books online was in the best interest of the publishing industry.
New York District Court Judge Denny Chin in March said the deal "would give Google a de facto monopoly over unclaimed works" and concluded the deal was unfair to rights holders whose copyrighted works would be served online without their permission.
The DOJ, as well as Google rivals Amazon, Microsoft and others, opposed the deal.