Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Microsoft jacks up book-scanning program

Michelle Pauli, Deal takes Microsoft further into Google territory, The Guardian, October 17, 2006. Excerpt:

Microsoft's strategic shift into Google territory took another step forward today with the announcement that the software giant has signed a digitisation agreement with a digital scanning specialist, Kirtas Technologies.

The deal, which will enable Microsoft to forge ahead with its Live Book Search portal, indicates Microsoft's commitment to its move towards developing online and on-demand services and away from its traditional revenue drivers - the sale and licensing of software.

Its Live Book Search portal, to be launched early next year, will make available two strands of material: out-of-copyright scholarly material from educational establishments, and in-copyright books that are sent to Microsoft by publishers or authors and which are scanned by the company free of charge.

The former strand has proved the most successful for Microsoft so far. The libraries of the University of California and the University of Toronto (with 34m and 15m volumes respectively) signed up to the programme in June, and Cornell University Library announced a partnership with Microsoft this morning. The Cornell initiative will focus on works in the public domain and will allow free access to content to students and scholars all over the world....

Comment. The Google and Microsoft projects (along with all the other book-digitizing projects) could be seen as complementary rather than competitive.  For us, the more the merrier.  But insofar as they are competitive, we also win.  Imagine very wealthy companies racing to make more literature more usefully available to more people.  The least complementary aspect of the proliferating projects is the lack of coordination to reduce redundant book-scans.  But for now, even redundant scans work in our favor, limiting corporate lock-in and creating competition to make the overlapping editions more and more accessible.  Remember that Google didn't originally allow downloading or printing even for its public-domain books, but pressure from users and rivals led it to lift these restrictions in August.

Update. Also see the Kirtas press release and the Cornell press release.