The Google Books project took another step forward this week with the launch of a mobile-optimised version of Google Book Search. Now, its library of 1.5 million free books can be viewed on the small screen, wherever you are.
Mobile users can point their gadgets’ browsers to http://book.google.com/m and see books that have been optimised for small screen viewing by formatting in reflowable text. While Google has the advanced smartphones such as the iPhone and Android in mind, the site can be viewed by any mobile device with a browser.
The main book search site uses scanned images of the actual pages from the original books - fine if you have a large PC screen to view them on but hopeless when that image is shrunk down to mobile screen size. Google freely admits that the conversion, via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, is imperfect and says it’s working on improving the technology to deal with the considerable engineering challenges involved.
This appears to be an early fruit of some technology Google announced back in November which we said at the time could be a significant one for books. Google announced back then that it had developed some technology that could be used to extract text from scanned images, making them more accessible. Most of Google’s 1.5 million (mostly) out-of-copyright works have been scanned into its database as images of the original books held in the collections of various libraries.
Read the announcement from Google.