Saturday, December 09, 2006

Microsoft Live Search Books vs Google Books

Technology heavyweight Microsoft will unveil an online library that will compete with Google's controversial project to digitize the world's books, the company said.

Microsoft said it would launch a US test of Live Search Books featuring tens of thousands of out-of-copyright books, including works held by the British library and major universities in Toronto and California.

"With this initial release we've focused on making the reading experience as natural as possible," project director Cliff Guren wrote in a weblog entry posted on the Microsoft website.

"The US beta launch of Live Search Books is a big step forward in advancing the way people discover information through the integration of content that has been off-limits to the traditional search experience, until now."

The Redmond, Washington, company has made fresh book-scanning partnerships with New York Public Library and the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine, according to Guren.

In late August, Google restarted its Google Book Search project initiated in 2004 with the lofty aim of scanning every literary work into digital format and making them available online.

Google has formed partnerships with major universities such as Harvard, Oxford, the New York Public Library, Complutense of Madrid and the University of California to add their collections to its virtual book shelves.

In mid-October the University of Wisconsin made its extensive selection of historical works available to the Mountain View, California-based Internet powerhouse.

Google has stored on its searchable database classic works in the public domain, along with copyrighted books either sent with or without the publishers' permission.

"Live Search Books was created with copyright laws in mind," a Microsoft spokesman said on Wednesday.

"It is focused on scanning and indexing out-of-copyright books or books where we have the express written consent of the copyright holder to scan them."

Microsoft said that its Windows Live Publisher program was devoted to obtaining the rights to digitize copyrighted books.

After outcries from publishing houses and authors, Google modified its online library to offer only summaries of copyrighted works along with information regarding where to buy or borrow the books.

Google claimed the right of "freedom of quotation" to pull up search results from books.

Google has rejected claims that, being based in the United States, it has favored English and it promised it would next roll out a Google Book Search in French.

Opposition to the project, particularly by French and US editors, resulted in a group of book publishers forming the Open Content Alliance (OCA) in October of 2005.

The OCA is a non-profit organization which joins together an array of universities, foundations, and data processors to create a "common pot" of digitized books available online for download or printing.

"The question is whether the knowledge of the world will be property of a private company or open to all," OCA founder Brewster Kahle told AFP earlier this year. "Google thinks public is private."

"Everybody can make money out of it," said Kahle, who is also president of a site called the Internet Archive. "We hope to see many search engines."

The OCA got the support of Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo, which was to tailor a search engine for the alliance and finance converting 18,000 books to digital format.

Microsoft has promised to contribute 150,000 digitized books to the OCA collection. The OCA hoped to recruit the National Library of France, where 90,000 books have already been scanned.

Neither Google nor Microsoft would reveal how many books they have already scanned.

At stake for the companies were revenues that could be raked in by placing ads on web pages visited by book-seeking Internet surfers.

The outcome of the battle of the online libraries will undoubtedly hinge on court decisions regarding copyright protections, and which search engine wins over the most coveted collections of written works.

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