Scanning World's Every Book, Including Oldest Bible

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In a dimly lit back room on the second level of the University of Michigan library's book-shelving department, Courtney Mitchel helped a giant desktop machine digest a rare, centuries-old Bible.

Mitchel is among hundreds of librarians from Minnesota to England making digital versions of the most fragile of the books to be included in Google Inc.'s Book Search, a portal that will eventually lead users to all the estimated 50 million to 100 million books in the world.

The manual scanning — at up to 600 pages a day — is much slower than Google's regular process.

"It's monotonous," the 24-year-old said.

Then she knit her career hopes into the work.

"But it's still something that I'm learning about — how to interact with really old materials and working with digital imaging, which is relevant to art history."

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