Microsoft Finds Partners for Book Search Initiative

Microsoft is expanding its book search service, an offering that will compete with a similar service from Google, it announced Friday.

Microsoft will add digitized versions of some books from the University of California Library and the University of Toronto Library to Windows Live Book Search. The program, derived from the MSN Book Search project that was launched late last year, allows users to access and search through the books online.

The Open Content Alliance (OCA) will scan, digitize and index out-of-copyright books from the libraries for Microsoft. OCA is an organization supported by technology companies and libraries.

It will also work with copyright holders to gain permission to scan and include protected books. With the announcement of the MSN Book Search initiative last year, Microsoft said it would join the OCA and work with the organization to scan and digitize books.

Microsoft appears to be approaching its book search project carefully, so as not to anger publishers and authors in the way that Google’s similar program has. A handful of libraries, including those at Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University and the New York Public Library, have offered some or all of their books to Google to scan and include in a searchable database known as Google Book Search.

Google’s program has been the subject of several lawsuits by publishers and authors who say Google isn’t authorized to scan copyright books without first asking permission to do so. While Google allows authors to opt out of its program, some authors and publishers say that the onus is on Google to gain permission to use the protected books.

On Tuesday, French publisher La Martiniere Groupe sued Google for counterfeiting in a French court. It said that at least 100 of its copyright works appeared in Google Book Search without its permission. The publisher is seeking a court order to stop the scanning, and 1 million euros (US$1.3 million) in damages, according to La Martiniere spokeswoman Tessa Destais.

Microsoft says it will work with OCA to obtain the permission of copyright owners to legally scan and include their books.

Both Google and Microsoft have related programs that allow publishers and authors to send in their books to be included in the databases.

In addition to the libraries announced today, as part of the launch of the Microsoft service, the British Library has offered many of its noncopyright books to Microsoft for Windows Live Book Search.

Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service (Dublin Bureau)

(Peter Sayer of the IDG News Service, Paris Bureau, contributed to this report.)

This article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page. For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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