Google said Monday that it had begun operating local-language sites in eight European countries for its Google Print program, its closely watched effort to make all of the world's books searchable online, expanding into territories where it has drawn fierce criticism.

The Google Print sites--for France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain--enable users to search books provided by publishers in each country as well as English-language books in the Google library for which the company has secured local rights.

Susan Wojcicki, a vice president for product management at Google, said in an interview Monday that the new sites currently could be used to search only a relatively small number of books. Many of those have been scanned since August, when the company, seeking to expand its online book program, began approaching European publishers.

Google is planning to discuss the new sites this week at the Frankfurt Book Fair, one of the largest annual gatherings of publishers, agents and authors. A Google executive is also scheduled to take part in a three-hour panel discussion on Friday about the numerous competing efforts to digitize books.

That discussion is also to include Jean-Noel Jeanneney, the president of the French National Library, who began advocating for a European effort to digitize and catalog the Continent's library collections soon after Google announced agreements with five major libraries last December to digitize their collections of 15 million books and documents.

he European sites work much the same as the main Google Print site. A user searching the German site,, for a word will receive links to books containing that word. The user can see some of the pages in each book where the word appears, review the book's bibliographic information and link to retailers that will sell the book directly to the user.

Eventually, the European sites will give users access to data about foreign-language books in the collections of the New York Public Library and the university libraries of Stanford, Harvard, Michigan and Oxford.

Among the European publishers that have signed pacts with Google are Grupo Planeta and Grupo Anaya of Spain, De Boeck and Editions De L'Eclat of France and Springer Science & Business Media of Holland.