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Google To Digitize Indian Palm Leaves

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Google digitizes books on a fairly regular basis, but it’s not every day that manuscripts made of palm leaves join the “to-do” pile.  That’s the case, however, at the University of Mysore in India, where over 800,000 documents are set to be brought into the twenty-first century.

There’s no telling when the job will be finished, but Google’s not exactly billing the university by the hour.  “Google has offered to digitize these manuscripts as well as 700,000 other books free of cost,” said J. Shashidhara Prasad, Mysore’s vice chancellor, in an interview with IANS’s Prashant K. Nanda.  “Google . . . is ready to provide us expertise, software and even manpower.”

The University of Mysore will, in return, allow Google to link to the material, even after it patents everything.  Written in Sanskrit or Kannada, there are supposed to be “[m]any manuscripts on ayurveda, mathematics, medicine, science, astrology and economy including ‘Arthasastra’ and several paper manuscripts of the Wodeyar dynasty,” according to Prasad.

Yet this scanning project still won’t be a moneymaker, and TMCnet’s Pradip Bhatacharya noted that this won’t be the first time Google has involved itself in such an undertaking.  “The Mysore project joins a growing list of Google scanning efforts overseas,” he wrote, “including a library-scanning endeavor for the University of Oxford and five more similar institutions overseas.”

Last week, ZDNet’s Donna Bogatin complained that Google is becoming the world’s librarian.  While I don’t feel that having the search engine giant fill that role is a terrible thing, a transformation of sorts certainly does seem to be taking place.

Google To Digitize Indian Palm Leaves
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