Posted November 18, 2008 4:46 pm by with 10 comments

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iconic wwii life photoYou guys remember LIFE magazine, right? Known as a scion of glossy photojournalism, Life was published in one form or another until last year (with a few gaps, of course). And like any publication, Life had a good amount of material that it was never able to use. But now Life’s parent company, Time, has found the perfect use for its photo archives—digitizing them with Google Image Search.

Google announces today the LIFE collection in Google Image Search. Google will be digitizing all 10 million of the archived photos, drawings and etchings over the next few months, with 20% of the collection already available.

Although Life was originally founded in 1883, its photo archive includes images dating back to the 1750s, some of which have been donated to the Life archive. The Google digital archive is searchable, but the results are also “blended” into Image and other Google Search results. Older results, of course, are most likely in the public domain, as Google Blogoscoped notes.

Each image features a landing page with technical and caption information, including dates and the names of the photographers and even the subjects (in some cases). On the landing page, you can rate each photo with 1-5 stars.

But here’s what Life gets out of it: in addition to offering high-res versions of the pictures online, Google will also feature a link to purchase prints of these photos as “high-quality framed prints” from Life (Google’s blog announcement of the partnership even plugs this as a “holiday gift possibilit[y]”—and if you’re interested, they start at $80).

With the recent YouTube Click-to-Buy and Google Book Search deal, this looks like another step in Google’s quest to organize the world’s information—and make a few affiliate bucks doing it. I’m very excited to get the chance to look through these pictures (I’m a history buff, especially 20th century American history), but I’m probably not going to be ordering any prints any time soon.

What do you think? Does this constitute a new direction in Google monetization?

  • That is great news from Google,We can now embrace our lost love with pictures.

  • PS3

    Imagine the poor Google employee who has the job of digitising the photos!

    (Yeah, I know it will be automated, but I just pictured a guy loading them one at a time!)

  • Give me some stock options, and I’ll happily go digitize those pictures!

  • The old pictures are the best!, black and white pictures have so much character in them, good for Google, they keep coming out with great stuff!!.:)

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  • Good point ps3. I can’t imagine trying to scan all those images into their servers. They probably got a poor intern to do the dirty work. The photos do look nice though.

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  • This is fantastic news. Life has been known for its photographic journalism and this will save quite a bit of history for posterity. Leave aside the commercial implications, this is a great development.

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  • If Google National Geographic will be Google future partner, I think this will fantastic!

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  • Yeah the photos look pretty good, even the oldest ones have clearly been well reproduced – impressive work.

  • It is a good idea. image search is a tough field, google may make it a little easier. I cant help thinking though with keywords how would you find a particular image. you would eventually find it after filing through the thousands of shots that wold be returned for each request.

  • The news is really great. Old photographs look extra elegant, especially black-and-white ones. Big thank to Google who gives us the opportunity to take advantage of searching the images.