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Google Tallies 129,864,880 Titles

Based on a new algorithm, Google says there are some 129,864,880 books in the world.
Based on a new algorithm, Google says there are some 129,864,880 books in the world.

On the Inside Google Books blog, software engineer Leonid Taycher says the company has developed an algorithm to count all the books in the world.

He gives us a fascinating account of how Google software engineers took metadata from catalogs, library databases, and companies; purged duplicates; removed non-books; and tried to exclude serials.

What's the point?

According to Taycher, "When you are part of a company that is trying to digitize all the books in the world, the first question you often get is: 'Just how many books are out there?'"

The inevitable second question: What gives you the right to scan and make-searchable millions of books?

Unfortunately for Google, no algorithm -- no mater how sophisticated -- can provide an easy answer to that one. The legal battle over the Google Book Search project continues.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.
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