Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Google's offer to digitize journal back runs for OA

Google is offering to digitize and provide OA to the back runs of scholarly journals.  The terms of the offer are not online, as far as I can tell, but here's an excerpt from Google's Overview and FAQ.

While many publishers and organizations are working on bringing journal collections online, a substantial fraction of scholarly journals are currently offline and may remain offline for the foreseeable future. Google is offering publishers an archival journal digitization program to bring these archival collections online and to make them more accessible.


  • Publishers maintain copyright and ownership of their content. Publishers select the journal volumes to be digitized.
  • This service is free and will make articles from the selected issues fully [and freely] accessible to all users.
  • Hosted pages that display journal articles will include publisher co-branding/logo and a link back to the publisher’s website.
  • This program is non-exclusive. There is no restriction on redigitization of this material or on working with other partners.

Additional Details:

  • The digitized journal articles will be included in Google search indices including Google Web Search and Google Scholar.
  • Publishers can create a table of contents on their website and link to their digitized articles in Google, allowing users to browse their archives from their website....
  • Publishers have the option to include Google's ads on the hosted pages that display the journal articles. This is setup as a revenue share between the publisher and Google.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does this mean all my journals have to be offered openly accessible?
A. No, you can choose the journal volumes to be included. The goal of this program is to bring archival journal collections online.

Q. Can you provide us with the digital files?
A: We are unable to provide the digital files unless we terminate the service or the agreement. We would like to point out that this is a non-exclusive program....

Q: Will Google provide us with reporting tools so I know how many users are reading my digitized content?
A: Yes, we will provide tools for publishers to view the usage of their content.

Q: What will users see when they find my digitized articles?
A: Users will see the full digitized article and will have an option to download PDFs for reading or printing. The pages that display the article will also include the publisher's
logo and url....

Comments.  I've been hoping to see this development ever since Google started digitizing books two years ago.

  1. The offer could be better, but it's definitely worth taking.  I'd like to see open access to cut-and-pasteable text, not just to images.  (I've said the same about Google-scanned books.)  I'd also like to see journals get their own copies of the files so that Google wouldn't be the only host.  But then, of course, the files would be indexed by Yahoo, Microsoft, and Scirus as well.  While Google naturally wants some return on its investment, and a period of exclusivity, this provision of the contract shows the effect of a profit motive.  If the OCA gets into journal digitization, and I hope it will, I suspect that it would be delighted if the resulting files were indexed by every search engine on the planet.  Meantime, free online access through Google alone is much better, for authors, readers, and journals, than no free online access at all.
  2. I don't see a downside for journal that doesn't already have a digitized back run.  Google will charge nothing to do the job, the contract is non-exclusive, and it needn't include current issues.  The only journals that might hesitate are those already selling online access to their back runs and happy with the revenue.
  3. Because the offer targets non-OA issues, it could bring about OA to virtually the whole corpus of journal literature that isn't already OA.  And it could do this without compelling non-OA journals to convert to OA for their newer issues. 
  4. The offer is new I don't yet know of any journals taking Google up on it.  If you hear any, please let me know.  Meantime, if an important journal in your field hasn't yet digitized its back run, tell it about this offer.