Cornell University Library announced on Tuesday that it will expand its ongoing partnership with Amazon by releasing tens of thousands of rare and, in many cases, out of print books as print-on-demand titles through the online retailer's Web site. Amazon currently offers around six thousand books from Cornell's collection, and Oya Rieger, Cornell's associate university librarian for information technologies, says that by the end of the year that number will rise to more more than eighty thousand. All of the books are in the public domain.
In this era of Google Book Search and Project Gutenberg, which offers free public domain e-books, Cornell's decision to utilize print-on-demand is a nod to the pleasures of books as physical objects. "Although demand for online access to digital books has been growing, books as artifacts continue to have a real value,” Rieger said in a press release. “This initiative supports the reading and research patterns of users who prefer the affordances provided by physical books—they support deep reading, underlining and writing comments in the margins. The Web is great for easy access and browsing, but because digital content can sometimes be ephemeral, physical books continue to serve as valuable reference sources on your shelf.”
Cornell University Library is also engaged in a large-scale digitization initiative with Google that will create 500,000 digitized books by 2015.
The new titles being offered through Amazon include a variety of subjects, including English literature and women's studies; many of the texts date back to before 1923. The six thousand titles currently available are limited to subjects such as agriculture, home economics, and New York state history.