Google, through their Google Books, is partnering with Books on Demand to make available the more than two million out of copyright books they have scanned over the last seven years. In an interesting twist for the online search engine, they will now offer the scanned books back in print. Using the Expresso Book Machine patrons can have their own perfect bound paperback copy in less than ten minutes. Although the machine itself costs $100,000, the material cost for each copy is around three dollars.
In another ironic twist, the private Harvard Bookstore will begin offering this service on September 29th so that people who can not visit the Harvard Library can buy many of the same books nearby at the bookstore. Harvard partner shipped with Google in December 2004, offering their extensive holdings to Google scanners.
While people, from knitters finding lost heirloom designs to teachers helping subsistence farmers in Africa using old but still relevant techniques, are finding useful information it is unlikely that many new books will be added to the public domain. Because Congress modified the copyright law in 1999, most new books will not be available in the public domain for many decades.