British Library digitises 250,000 books

British Library

Over 250 000 titles will be text-searchable online

The British Library and Google have teamed up to digitise 250,000 out-of-copyright books from 1700-1870. Google will cover the costs of digitisation, which probably run to millions of pounds, and make the content available on It will also be available on the British Library website at

However, there are restrictions. The release tells us that "[Anyone] will be free to copy, share and manipulate the text for non-commercial purposes". Open content commentator Glyn Moody points out that by adding the non-commercial clause the digitised versions are kept out of the public domain. He blogs:

"These are materials that are in the public domain; public domain means that anyone can do anything with them - including commercial applications. So this condition of "non-commercial purposes" means one thing, and one thing only: although the texts themselves are public domain, the digitised texts are not (otherwise it would be impossible to impose the non-commercial clause).

"In other words, far from helping to make knowledge freely accessible to all and sundry, the British Library is actually enclosing the knowledge commons that rightfully belongs to humankind as a whole."

Simon Bell of the British Library told us: "Strictly speaking the digitised versions are not in the public domain, but of course the original texts are. There is absolutely no intention whatsoever to withdraw the hard copies of the books.

"There has to be a possibility of a return - financial or otherwise - on the money that Google has spent on this. Google have conveyed to us that their reasons for undertaking this project are not largely financial.

"The British Library is primarily interested in opening access as far as possible. We have a variety of different business models for doing that, and this is one of them. Once the contract has run its course in 15 years' time, commercial usage becomes legitimate."

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began back in 2012. The current website team consists of eight full-time members of staff: Editor Georgia Coggan, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Ecommerce Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, Editor, Digital Art and 3D Ian Dean, Tech Reviews Editor Erlingur Einarsson and Ecommerce Writer Beth Nicholls and Staff Writer Natalie Fear, as well as a roster of freelancers from around the world. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.