Google's 'Shakespeare' Site Launched

Stewing over exactly how Hamlet’s famous "To be or not to be" speech continueth? Fear not, for Google hath come up with a William Shakespeare site where you can search the celebrated writer’s plays to your heart’s content.

Tying in with the 50th anniversary of New York’s popular outdoor Shakespeare in the Park festival, Google launched its "Summer with Shakespeare" website Wednesday.

While searching within a play will find the correct quote, reading the bard’s collected works through Google can be an interesting experience.

From a quick perusal of some of the comedies and tragedies, the plays that have been scanned in full tend to be older published versions of the works—one was dated 1886—and a few of the illustrations to the plays also featured shots of the scanner’s pink fingertips.

Other websites already offer access to Shakespeare’s complete works, including the MIT Shakespeare Homepage and the University of Victoria’s Internet Shakespeare Editions. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology site doesn’t currently provide search capabilities, and the Canadian university uses Google’s search engine.

Google’s Shakespeare site uses the search company’s controversial Google Book Search, previously known as Google Print. The company’s ambitious plan to scan all the world’s books and put them online in searchable form has met with much disapproval from authors and publishers around the world. Google intends to digitize all the books held by its library partners whether in the public domain or in copyright.

Authors or publishers who don’t want their books scanned have to opt out of the program, an action that has generated much bad feeling. Some writers and publishers believe that Google should have to ask their permission to digitize their works, not the other way around.

Jen Grant, a member of the Google Book Search team, noted in a company blog that some print versions of Shakespeare’s plays may not be in the public domain everywhere in the world.

"Where copyright status is in question, we protect the publisher by showing the Snippet View," Grant wrote. Instead of showing the complete text relating to a search of a book’s content, the Snippet View instead provides some information about a work including a few excerpted sentences, much like a card-catalog listing.

Oh, for the record, after asking his question, Hamlet goes on to wonder "whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?"

-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)

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