Google’s Shakespeare

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.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.