Google Mobilizes Its Book Collection

Google launched a mobile version of its book search project on Thursday, providing 1.5 million public domain books to readers on the go.

The news comes as mobile device adoption soars and smartphone users expect PC-like Internet features and services on handsets. It also comes just days before Amazon debuts the second version of its e-reader Kindle device at a press event in New York on Feb. 9.

“One of the great things about an iPhone or Android phone is being able to play Pacman while stuck in line at the Post Office. Sometimes though, we yearn for something more than just playing games or watching videos,” the Google blog noted in announcing the effort.

According to published reports, Google’s new service will work on its G1 Android phone, the iPhone, certain Nokia devices and other handsets using an open-source architecture for browser application.

The mobile book effort comes four months after Google settled a legal dispute tied to copy right issues after launching its digital book effort in 2004.

As part of its settlement with the Association of American publishers and the Authors Guild. Google will build a $34.5-million “Book Rights Registry” to help locate rights holders and ensure that they receive the money their works earn under the Google agreement. Google did not respond to inquiries by press time.

According to the Google, bringing its book library to the smaller screen required using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, which the Google notes isn’t perfect.

The technology, explained Google, allows text from a page image to flow on a mobile browser just like any other Web page. Google describe it as a “difficult engineering task” as torn pages, smudges and even fonts can cause replication errors. But Google plans on improving OCR using computer algorithms so that printed text rendering will be improved.

“Imperfect OCR is only the first challenge in the ultimate goal of moving from collections of page images to extracted-text based books. Getting this right allows us to render the book in a way that follows the format of the original book,” said Google.

Google advised readers that if they do bump into a rough patch where text seems weird, they can tap on the screen text to see the original page image.

This launch, it noted, marks another important step toward its goal of more universal access to books.

“The technical challenges are daunting, but we’ll continue to make enhancements to our OCR and book structure extraction technologies,” stated the blog.

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