Bid On E-Bay, Digitize A Book?

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Rare fragile books are seen on a cart ready to be scanned in Ann Arbor, Mich.. Librarians from Minnesota to England are helping Google Inc.'s Book Search create digital versions of all the estimated 50 million to 100 million books in the world and make them readily available online for free for people everywhere. (AP)
Rare fragile books are ready to be scanned in Ann Arbor, Mich. as part of Google Inc.'s quest to scan the world's books. (AP)

Those strange, squiggly words you’re prompted to type every time you buy a concert ticket or open a new email account are called captchas. They’re a security protocol to make sure you’re a human, rather than a computer programmed to troll the web, buying out concerts for scalpers or creating fake email addresses.

But thanks to the reCAPTCHA program, this standard Internet tool is also being used to help digitize, and therefore preserve, old books for Google. We speak to Dr. Luis Van Ahn, head of the Recaptcha program, to hear more.

This segment aired on April 8, 2011.


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