Google launched the first phase of its controversial effort to digitize millions of books for online viewing -- but said it would limit access to any copyrighted material for now.
The Internet search giant said the initial collection will include "public domain" works -- those without current copyright protection.
"Because they're out of copyright, these cultural artifacts can be read in their entirety online at http://print.google.com, where anyone can search and browse every page," Google said in a statement. "They are fully searchable and users can save individual page images."
The works being made available include US Civil War regimental histories and early American writings from the University of Michigan; congressional acts and other government documents from Stanford; works of Henry James from Harvard; and biographies of New York citizens and other collected biographies from the New York Public Library.
Google said the material being offered now represents "just a small fraction of the information that will eventually be made available as a result of Google Print."
The company did not address how it would respond to issues of copyright if it goes ahead with plans to offer online versions of more current books. Google said in its online blog this week it would resume scanning of in-copyright works.
In the initial version of Google Print, which is integrated into the Google search engine, users can search the full text books Google has scanned and view a "card catalog-like entry with brief excerpts of their search term in context."
It added, "Users can only see more of any book they find if the book is out of copyright or if the publisher has given explicit permission to show full pages of a limited portion of the book."
Google's announced plan to offer online versions of copyrighted books has prompted a series of lawsuits, including from authors and publishers.