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Microsoft Releases Rival to Google’s Book-Scanning Project

It may seem like Google's much-debated book-scanning project has secured the participation of every library under the sun. But Microsoft's less-discussed rival project (The Chronicle, October 27, 2005) has managed to recruit some pretty big names of its own — including the British Library, the University of California, and the University of Toronto.

The company has digitized plenty of volumes held by those institutions, and now it will finally give Web surfers a chance to view the fruits of its labor: Today it released a beta version of its book search engine, called Live Search Books. According to CNET News, the tool is modeled after Windows Live Search, Microsoft's search engine for the broader Web.

But analysts won't compare Live Book Search to Microsoft's other Web-searching tool; they'll measure it against Google's ballyhooed project. And there's at least one important difference between the two efforts. While Microsoft and Google are both making the full texts of public-domain books available online, Google is also (rather controversially) scanning titles that are still under copyright. Microsoft does not digitize copyrighted books unless their publishers ask the company to do so.

Microsoft is certainly hoping its less-aggressive strategy will appease publishers that have objected to Google's no-holds-barred digitization campaign. And Live Book Search plans to woo users by bringing in reinforcements pretty quickly: Books from Cornell University's libraries, the New York Public Library, and the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine are expected to appear on Microsoft's service within a month. –Brock Read

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