On Monday, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman gave a moving speech to the AAP (American Association of Publishers) about the reasons why the university is participating in the Google Book Search Library Project. She explained how copyright law supports fair use, and eloquently observed that the loss of books, whether due to natural disasters or inevitable physical decay, is a significant cultural loss.

"Nature, politics and war have always been the mortal enemies of written works," she said. "Most recently, Hurricane Katrina dealt a blow to the libraries of the Gulf Coast. At Tulane University, the main library sat in nine feet of water -- water that soaked the valuable Government Documents collection: more than 750,000 items -- one of the largest collections of government materials in Louisiana -- 90 percent of it now lost."

President Coleman went on to note that together with Google "the University of Michigan is involved in one of the most extensive preservation projects in world history. ... By digitizing today's books, through our own efforts and in partnership with others, we are protecting the written word for all time."

In the recent debate over making books discoverable online, the value of preserving our culture, knowledge and history has often been ignored. We're honored to partner with institutions like the University of Michigan that staunchly defend this shared heritage.

You can watch her speech on Google Video.

Update: Reposted with working links and Google Video link.