Google eBooks just got upgraded with real time translation. This feature is another step towards the destruction of language barriers that limit worldwide cultural sharing. Something that, eventually, will deeply change the core of the human species while preserving our tribal identities.
Just like their web page interpreter, their ebook system uses statistics to translate content—converting entire chunks of text based on statistical comparison, putting then against a huge database of previous translations. Right now, the new feature—which also adds dictionary and search—is limited to "several sentences of content" at a time.
And while it will not be able to properly translate Cervantes down to a tee—with every nuance that only a human translators can get at this point—it would probably translate all the models of Jura coffeemakers in Stieg Larsson's Män som hatar kvinnor just fine. And it will be helpful for technical work and people learning a language.
But it's only going to get better every day, to the point in which completely accurate and transparent translation would be achieved. [Google Blog]