The Google Books project has scanned over 12 million books, largely thanks to the 40-plus libraries in its Library Projects Partner program. The most recent partner, the British Library, will allow for the digitization of 250,000 unique works.
The British Library's Contributions
The British Library will be selecting 250,000 out-of-copyright works, exclusively from the library's stunning collection of unique works. Google will then take and digitize those works, making them available for non-commercial use to anyone who cares to take a gander on Google Books. The British Library will also keep a permanent digital archive of the files and make the content available through the official British Library website.
While not all works have been selected as of yet, the initial round has been prepared for digitization. As described by the British Library in their press release, initial works will vary greatly, "from feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette (1791), to the invention of the first combustion engine-driven submarine (1858), and an account of a stuffed Hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange (1775)."
All items will be fully searchable and downloadable, and the reproduction, modification, and use of the materials are only restricted for those who have commercial aims. It's also likely that Google will create a dataset that compiles data on language usage and other data-points inside the text as well as add the text to existing datasets, although the company has yet to confirm such plans.
The Lofty Ambitions of Google Books
Google still has a long way to go if it wants to meet its ambitious aim: digitizing all of the world's known 129,864,880 books by the end of 2019. This goal, announced by Google in August of last year, involves creating a digital library of over four billion pages.
With many major libraries having unique copies of historical texts, partnerships like the one with the British Library are vital to that goal.
The British Library, however, is far from the first on Google's partner list. The first, in fact, were the Harvard University Library, the University of Michigan Library, the New York Public Library, Oxford's Bodleian Library, and Stanford University Libraries (SULAIR). There are now more than forty library partners in Google's program.