Amid the flat, wide fields of central France, a team of re-trained secretaries and IT experts is packaging Europe's literary heritage for the digital era.

The company they work for, Safig, is one of the few European firms to digitize books, using automatic and human page-turners. That places them right at the center of France's plan for a massive online library, and its attempts to negotiate a digital books deal with U.S. internet giant Google.

Skeptics point out that Google's 10 million digitized books dwarf any French effort so far, such as Safig's three-year contract to scan 300,000 books for the Bibliotheque Nationale.

One possible outcome is a compromise with Google that would accelerate mass digitization.

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