The Ghosts of Google Books

Published:  December 31, 2013
Bonnie Abbott
The Ghosts of Google Books

In an effort to digitise all unique books in the world (estimated at 130 million), Google Books has also unintentionally digitised the human lives that exist around them – the artifacts of those that read them, handle them, store or borrow them, stain, mark or draw upon them.

Celebrated on the tumblr The Art of Google Books, these markings representing the unique life of the book have been digitally recorded, visually documenting the human role in knowledge and history, and how we can warp and impact its future reference. Library cards and hand written notes, crude drawings, stains from coffee, wine and flower pressings, folds and unexpected digital glitches, the disembodied hands and fingers of Google employees and the mechanics of the scanner itself, the collection depicts the utopian, technological mission as a noble task vulnerable to human inaccuracy, the “Ghost in The Shell“, or as Experimental Jetset put it, “The spectre of printed matter, haunting the digitization of the library…”

Google Books’ movement towards the digital democratisation of all printed knowledge, including some manuscripts over 1000 years old,  surpassed its initial intent of scanning 15 million in its first decade of existence to reaching 30 million in 9 years, and plans on scanning the remaining 100 million before 2020.

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