Duke University is about to expand access to free electronic books to include thousands of titles that are not yet available from the world's most ambitious e-book project: the gargantuan online library compiled by Google Books.
This fall Duke will be among the nation's first institutions to offer free online access to books that are still protected by copyright and not in the public domain. Those books, published between 1923 and 1963, will be offered to the public because the owners of the copyrights can't be contacted - either the publishers went out of business or the authors are deceased.
The e-books are stored by HathiTrust, a digital partnership of some 60 universities and research institutions. Google Books digitized many of the copyrighted books in the HathiTrust database, but so far Google hasn't received legal clearance to offer public access to those titles.
To date, 17 campus libraries have signed on to participate in the project, said HathiTrust executive director John Wilkin, who is also IT director for the University of Michigan Library System.
HathiTrust holds more than 9.5 million digitized volumes, and as many as half could be copyrighted without surviving copyright owners. HathiTrust only in recent weeks began researching which titles lack copyright owners and could be offered online by Duke and the other universities.