Friday, May 23, 2008

Microsoft Curtails Book-Scanning Project

Microsoft's Live Search Books project is being ended, according to a post on the Live Search blog. The site will be removed next week, and Microsoft's book-scanning projects with libraries and publishers will be ending (or, as they put it, "winding down"). Some other highlights from the announcement:

- "Given the evolution of the Web and our strategy, we believe the next generation of search is about the development of an underlying, sustainable business model for the search engine, consumer, and content partner." (Translation: we weren't making any money).

- "With Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, we digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles. Based on our experience, we foresee that the best way for a search engine to make book content available will be by crawling content repositories created by book publishers and libraries." (Translation: Libraries and/or publishers are better prepared and equipped to digitize books than Microsoft is. An entirely fair and valid point point).

- "With our investments, the technology to create these repositories is now available at lower costs for those with the commercial interest or public mandate to digitize book content. ... As we wind down Live Search Books, we are reaching out to participating publishers and libraries. We are encouraging libraries to build on the platform we developed with Kirtas, the Internet Archive, CCS, and others to create digital archives available to library users and search engines." (Another very fair point - the Internet Archive is doing a fine job of providing digital content with superb metadata; providing the resources to libraries to let them get their books into the system, and then making that content searchable in useful ways, is key).

- "We will continue to track the evolution of the industry and evaluate future opportunities." (Translation: If we can figure out a way to make money on this, we'll be back).

- "We are ... removing our contractual restrictions placed on the digitized library content and making the scanning equipment available to our digitization partners and libraries to continue digitization programs." (Excellent. This is good to know, and a classy thing to do).

As I said not too long ago, I've long thought Microsoft's program was the weakest of the three big projects; hopefully this will get more institutions moving toward the Internet Archive and shake things up a bit in the digitization world.

[h/t LIS News]