Oxford Google Books Project


In 2004, the University of Oxford entered into partnership with Google to scan the Bodleian Libraries' out-of-copyright holdings, in particular those from the 19th century. We were one of the original "big five" institutions to sign-up to Google's Library Partnership Project, and the first from outside the US. The initial phase of this work was completed in the summer of 2009, with several hundred thousand of our books being scanned and made available via via SOLO, the main Resource Discovery Tool for the University of Oxford. 

Items were selected solely on their copyright status and suitability for scanning, and the works that have been digitized cover a wide range of languages, disciplines, and genres. They include the first English translation of Newton's "Mathematical principles of natural philosophy" from 1729, the first edition of Jane Austen's "Emma", and John Cassell's "Illustrated history of England".

Access to Oxford's Copies

Bibliographically, we have chosen to maintain a close connection between the digitized copy and the physical copy from which it was scanned. After a search query has been submitted, SOLO will produce a list of "brief-display" results. Where there are digitized copies of our physical holdings created by the Google project, they will be accessible via the same record as for the original physical copies, as in this example:


Note, you will see an option for accessing the physical copies (Find & Request) and the option for accessing the digitized copy (Online access) in the same record.

This distinguishes digitized copies from electronic versions of items which have been purchased from a third-part provider. In the latter case, a new record is created for the electronic version which is separate from that for the physical version (where we own a copy), as in this example:


Note, in this case you will see only one option for accessing the item in each record. 

Clicking on a bibliographic record’s brief display in SOLO will open a full display of the record composed of different sections, commonly: Export Options for the record, Find & Request for the physical holdings and Details & Links related to the item. Where a digitized version of the physical item or items is available, the full record will display a View Online section, where you will find a link or links (if there are multiple volumes) to pdf files of the digitised version, named ‘View digitised copy of: …’, as shown here: 


(These links also display further down in the Links section of the record).

Clicking on a link will open a new browser tab with the downloaded file. From there you will find the usual options to print or save the file:


Should you actually want to consult the physical item itself: first, sign-in to SOLO, then go to the Find & Request section of the record and select ‘Bodleian Library’ under Locations. Select Hold request for the item, choose a Delivery/Pickup Location, then Send Request:


You can easily refine your search results to show only records for items with digitized copies from the Google Project. In the Sort & Filter Results options to the left of your search results, look for Oxford Google Books in the Show Only option, as shown here:


You can also look for ‘Digitized Copies’ in the Collection option: 


Important Notes

1. At present, the PDF files contain scanned images only. They have not been OCRed (i.e. had the images converted to machine-readable text) and therefore you cannot search for words within them, nor cut and paste text from them. Full-text searchable versions may be available from Google Books (http://books.google.com/books or http://books.google.co.uk/books).

2. Many of the books digitized are large, and the PDFs are correspondingly large. About 18% of them are currently more than 100MBs. On a fast network, such as that within the University of Oxford, this should not be a problem, with most files downloading in tens of seconds, and the largest in a minute or so. But you should be warned that with slow connections, the large files make take minutes, so please be patient. The Acrobat PDF Reader plugin used by many web browsers reports the size of a file immediately and then shows the progress of the download.

3. There is an issue with the scanned Google books in the Firefox web browser. If you use Internet Explorer you should not experience any problems. The issue means that the cover sheet is followed by only blank pages. A workaround is to change the way the browser views PDF files:

For Firefox, go to Options, then Applications, in the list of Content types find "Portable Document Format (PDF)" and then select Adobe Reader (Default) in the drop-down list.

For Chrome, go to chrome://settings/content/pdfDocuments and set PDF files to download rather than be viewed in Chrome.

Another option is to download the PDF and save it on your computer for viewing later with a suitable PDF reader. Adobe provides the free Acrobat Reader for most computer platforms at http://get.adobe.com/uk/reader/.

4. Although digitized versions from the Google project are publicly available for anyone to access, their records will not display in a list of results refined by ‘Show only: Open Access’.


We welcome your feedback, which we trust will help us improve this service. We also welcome your reports of any errors in the downloaded files, such as illegible or missing pages. We may not be able to supply corrected pages in the short term, but the information we collect will help us to plan for doing so in the future. Thank you for your feedback!

Please email your feedback to digitalsupport@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

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