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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 06:55 GMT 07:55 UK
Google makes novels free to print
The service will allow users to download PDF files of classic books
Search engine Google plans to offer consumers the chance to download and print classic novels free of charge.

The firm's book search tool will let people print classics such as Dante's Inferno or Aesop's Fables, as well as other books no longer under copyright.

Until now, the service has only let people read such books on-screen.

Google's book search service stems from a wider project to put books online in a searchable format, which it is undertaking with major universities.

Working with Google on the Books Library project are Oxford University, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of California, as well as the New York Public Library.

"How many users will find, and then buy, books they never could have discovered any other way?
Eric Schmidt, Google

Volunteers working for a project known as Gutenberg have for some years copied out-of-copyright books as text files, which can then be used for printing, reading or piping into a programme for editing.

In contrast, Google is offering the books in a "print-ready" format, as have several other - albeit much smaller and less well-known - firms.

Online shopping site Amazon has offered limited online access to the contents of its huge bookstore.

More services

Google's book searching device does not access books still under copyright, for which only bibliographies are available along with limited extracts.

The news comes as the search engine is expanding its empire to offer a wider spectrum of services.

Earlier this week, Google announced plans to target the software market for companies.

The firm said it would offer companies the chance to run their email, calendar and other services on their own domains, to expand on the service it offers to individuals.

This service puts Google, whose focus has been searching and advertising, in direct competition with software giant Microsoft.

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