Google is now starting to digitize millions of pages of archived newspapers so that people can search old newspapers for old news, according to its blog (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/bringing-history-online-one-newspaper.html).
It’s been nearly four years since Google announced it would start digitizing books from the libraries of Harvard, Stanford and the New York Public Library among others. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken them so long to get to newspapers! I’m still pretty young (mid-20s), which means I barely remember looking up books and microfiche of newspapers at the library for my high school research assignments. By the time I got to college, one of the only reasons for going to the library was to look at old newspapers and old magazines.
Now with Google digitizing everything, students don’t have to leave their room to do any kind of research. And the epidemic of overweight kids continues to grow. No walking to the library or walking within the library … no walking at all. But I digress.
At least the newspapers are getting little bit of money from Google’s initiative; Google will run ads alongside the old newspapers with the majority of revenue going back to the newspaper publisher. From the image on Google’s blog, it looks like they’ll leave the scanned newspaper pages as is, just like microfiche. (Is it just me or does the word “microfiche” just sound old now?) That means headlines, advertisements – everything that was on the printed page will be searchable.
I think it’ll be fun just to search the ads to see what things cost way back then. Oh, and by the way, “way back then” refers to newspapers more than 200 years old! Google has partnered with the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, which has been published for the last 244 years. It’s the oldest newspaper in North America.
Now, if you’re thinking this is old news – Google was digitizing the New York Times and the Washington Post in 2006 – you’re just a little bit off. Google was only indexing existing digital archives from the New York Times and Washington Post back then (the newspapers were digitizing old newspapers themselves). Now, Google is doing their own digitizing of these newspapers along with many others.
You can search for old newspaper content using the Google News Archive or by searching Google News and then using the timeline feature. Eventually, as Google scans more newspaper articles, you’ll be searching newspapers as well as Web sites when you type in a search at Google.com.