Now Web users can use Google’s powerful servers not only to look up words in the Dickens novel, but also to download a copy — a process that can take anywhere from a few seconds to about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the book and the speed of the user’s Internet connection. The book arrives as a set of scanned images from a printed copy of the book, and some include original drawings, library markings and notes jotted in the margins by previous borrowers. Google Book Search’s copy of “A Tale of Two Cities" was scanned from a copy printed in 1908 by the University Society. A rubber stamp on an inner page indicates that the original book was obtained by the Harvard College Library in 1942.
Google won’t say how many books are currently in its index. But with the ability to scan books at six of the world’s biggest libraries, Google’s library of public domain titles could surpass that of the Gutenberg Project, which contains about 16,000 titles.
For now, the Google Book Search service offers full downloads only of “public domain" books, whose copyrights have expired. These include many of the most famous titles of all time, such as the writings of Dickens , Shakespeare , and Dante.