Google has always shied away from the content creation business. While Yahoo spent precious resources developing expensive content, the Google folks contented themselves with developing technology that organized the rest of the world's information. And it paid off well. Given this approach, it was somewhat strange to stumble upon an editorialized part of their web site that invites users to "Explore Shakespeare with Google." But we're glad we did.
Google's Shakespeare product is part of the company's larger Book Search initiative, which, to boil it down, involves scanning millions of books, putting them on Google's servers, and allowing users to search the print universe like they do the world of web content. Although some aspects of the project have proven to be highly controversial (namely, the decision to scan millions of copyrighted texts), other aspects have been easily welcomed by the publishing community. This includes the decision to scan and archive a panoply of old, public domain texts.
This is where we get to Google's Shakespeare. What you'll find here is a collection of all of the Bard's plays in full text. The histories, tragedies, comedies, romances - they are all here. The folks at Googleplex give you the ability to access each play in its entirety and peruse it online. Or, alternatively, you can download each play as a PDF file, which gives you the ability to print the text and work through it in new ways. This kind of editorial collection is hard to argue with. In fact, we'd like to see more collections like it. But something tells us that this isn't likely -- that the Bard (oh, and China) is just about the only thing for which Google will make an exception.