British Library, Microsoft to digitize 25 million pages

The British Library, which is the United Kingdom’s national library, is teaming with Microsoft to digitize 25 million pages of content next year.

The plan is to digitize roughly 100,000 out-of-copyright books, which will be available through the new MSN Book Search beta service next year. The library has a long-term commitment to digitizing more documents.

“This partnership helps us fulfill our vision of promoting ready access to our collection for everyone who wants to use it,” said Lynne Brindley, the library’s chief executive, in a press release. “This is great news for research and scholarship and will give unparalleled access to our vast collections to people all over the world. They will be available to anyone, anywhere and at anytime.”

The library unveiled a three-year strategy in June that includes developing a digital research environment to store, manage, preserve and provide access to material to academic, personal and commercial researchers.

“Most people are aware that a national switch to digital broadcasting is expected by the end of this decade,” Brindley said in June. “Less well known is the fact that a similar trend is under way in the world of publishing. By the year 2020, 40 percent of U.K. research monographs will be available in electronic format only, while a further 50 percent will be produced in both print and digital. A mere 10 percent of new titles will be available in print alone by 2020.”

The library is developing a National Digital Library to be a central part of the digital collection management approach, including housing content born digital, such as Web sites and electronic journals, and digitized versions of the institution’s collection. Part of the strategy includes creating virtual research environments and increasing the range of material for desktop delivery.

Microsoft and other technology companies have been providing software, consulting and technical support to help build the infrastructure for the National Digital Library.

The British Library has a collection of 150 million items, including 13 million books, 7 million manuscripts, 4.5 million maps, 56 million patents, 3.5 million sound recordings, 8 million stamps and 58 million newspaper issues and other formats. The library receives about 600,000 new items annually.

In the past year, the library has created an integrated digital system bringing together 29 million bibliographic records and replacing 14 systems, according to the strategic plan.

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