Search CataloguePlus

Project Digitisation by Google

Frequently asked questions

See also the  information page of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek about working with Google [Dutch].

Why is the UvA having its books digitised by Google?

The UvA has joined a successful collaboration between the Koninklijke Bibliotheek/National Library of the Netherlands (KB) and Google, which started in 2010. The KB and other library partners can release only few funds for these activities, and there is very little external funding to be found. It is not to be expected that in the coming years sufficient government funds will be made available to the universities for digitisation. That is why the UvA is looking for collaboration with other institutions, such as the KB and in this case also with private parties.

Why does the UvA have an agreement with the KB and not with Google?

Since the late 2000s Google has been reaching agreements with national libraries; in 2010 the KB, as the national library of the Netherlands, came to an agreement with Google. New conditions were added so as to allow digitisation of the UvA collection. This collection is a valuable complement to that of the KB. The KB and the UvA (Executive Board) have concluded a supplementary agreement.

What is the procedure exactly?

The aim is to have 100,000 books from before 1874 digitised. It concerns books which are printed in the Netherlands, are free from copyright and have not yet been digitised by the KB. Valuable and very fragile works will not be digitised during the project; they will be ‘deselected’. The UvA checks all the works which are scanned. Staff from or on behalf of Google come to collect the books. The scanning is done outside UvA, and afterwards the books are returned by Google. So there will be no Google staff working within the UvA. The digitised books will then become available via Google Books first; this will be about two months after they have been collected from the UvA. About six months later they will become available in Delpher. There is an indication in the catalogue if a book is being digitised in this project.

How long will the books be unavailable? 

The catalogue shows how long the book will be (physically) unavailable for users. In the first few months of the project this period will become more precise; for the time being the period has been set to five months.  Books which are not available cannot be reserved. After digitisation the books can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room.

I need various books from before 1874 for my research/work. Can I continue to consult them?

The books cannot be reserved. If a book goes to Google to be digitised, it will no longer be available. We cannot tell when exactly this will be. You may try to find alternatives. Library staff can help you with this.

When does the project start? 

In 2014 the preparatory work was started, in which the KB gave support to the UvA in setting out the digitisation workflow. The KB provides a work database for the UvA, keeps in touch with Google and gives support in setting up the actual processing. In March 2015 the processing started, and the transports from UvA to Google began. The KB remains the manager of the title database and has the final responsibility for the progress of the project.

How long will the project take? 

The total project is expected to take two to three years (from September 2014).

What guarantees are there concerning the safety aspects of transport/storage of the material by Google? Does the UvA have any guidelines? 

The material is well insured by Google and the UvA sticks to its guidelines for the external digitisation of older material. The UvA does not select fragile or very valuable works for digitisation. The experiences of the KB and other libraries with the safety during digitisation by Google are positive.

It is permitted to redigitise for a better quality. Does this mean that the KB and UvA are satisfied with scans of a lesser quality?

No, the scans satisfy the quality requirements of the KB and the UvA for such large-scale digitisation projects.

How and where will the digitised UvA books become available?

The digitised books will become available via Delpher and  Europeana. Furthermore, Google will offer them via ‘Search books’ of  Google Books. The KB developed Delpher in cooperation with a number of universities, among which was UvA.

How do I know if a work is digitally available? When does it become available?

Usdually, a book is available at Google Books in about two months, but this is not guaranteed. About six months after digitisation the books are also available in Delpher.

If books are found via Google, will they still be recognisable as UvA material?

There is a field which says the original of the work is at the UvA.

Can you tell from the download where it is from?

The PDF says ‘digitised by Google’. But the whole book is scanned, including the endpapers and the front and back cover, so marks of ownership by the KB/UvA which are to be found there or elsewhere in the book will also be scanned.

Can I download the files / OCR?

The books can be downloaded via  Delpher or ‘Search books’ of  Google Books (PDF, XML, JPG). But not yet the OCR file, for which the books must be loaded separately into Delpher, which will be done later.



Published by  Library UvA

2 October 2015