Today is a day of rejoicing for me. Ever since the iPad debuted, I’ve wanted a good interface for reading Google Books on it. I was a bit surprised that one didn’t exist right off the bat. In the last month, Google opened up Google Docs for editing on the iPad – a major plus. And now, I can read ancient books on the most modern device! It blows my mind! I don’t think any author 100 or 300 years ago could have imagined that I would be looking at a printed text of their book from back then on this digital device.
I think this will revolutionize certain niche areas. For example, there are hosts of Anglican theological books (and other theological books) that would never have seen the light of day before. To read them would have required travel to a few select libraries, or a publisher dusting them off and reprinting them in a limited run. Now they are accessible, free, searchable, and universal. It really is something.
I’ve come across ancient magazines like Notes and Queries that I can read a century or more after it came out in a way that was unimaginable when it was first published. I don’t like to overdo the “we are living through history” angle on things, but I do think that we are in the middle of something big with the Google Books project, something that future historians will look back on and pull apart for its impact on the world.