Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Microsoft phases out Academic Search, Book Search, and book digitization

Book search winding down, Microsoft Live Search blog, May 23, 2008.  Excerpt:

Today we informed our partners that we are ending the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects and that both sites will be taken down next week. Books and scholarly publications will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes.

This also means that we are winding down our digitization initiatives, including our library scanning and our in-copyright book programs....

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. 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. We will continue to track the evolution of the industry and evaluate future opportunities. 

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.... 

We have learned a tremendous amount from our experience and believe this decision, while a hard one, can serve as a catalyst for more sustainable strategies. To that end, we intend to provide publishers with digital copies of their scanned books. We are also 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. We hope that our investments will help increase the discoverability of all the valuable content that resides in the world of books and scholarly publications.

Update.  From Miguel Helft in the New York Times, May 24, 2008:

...“It makes you wonder what else is likely to go,” said Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of the blog Search Engine Land. “One of the reasons people turn to Google is that it tries to be a search player in all aspects of search.”

Mr. Sullivan said that the number of people using book search services from Microsoft and Google was relatively small, but it included librarians, researchers and other so-called early adopters who often influence others. These users are now likely to turn to Google with increasing frequency, he said....

Microsoft’s decision also leaves the Internet Archive [and its Open Content Alliance], the nonprofit digital archive that was paid by Microsoft to scan books, looking for new sources of support. Several major libraries said that they had chosen to work with the Internet Archive rather than with Google, because of restrictions Google placed on the use of the new digital files.

“We’re disappointed,” said Brewster Kahle, chairman of the Internet Archive. Mr. Kahle said, however, that his organization recognized that the project, which has been scanning about 1,000 books each day, would not receive corporate support indefinitely. Mr. Kahle said that Microsoft was reducing its support slowly and that the Internet Archive had enough money to keep the project “going for a while.”

“Eventually funding will come from the public sphere,” Mr. Kahle said....

“We are extremely committed to Google Book Search, Google Scholar and other initiatives to bring more content online,” said Adam Smith, product management director at Google.

Update.  Coincidentally, Péter Jacsó reviewed Microsoft Live Academic Search in his latest column for Gale (April 2008).  The review is strongly negative:

...I don’t know what kept the developers busy for 2 years to come up with this sorry upgrade of LAS [Live Academic Search], which makes it worse especially by academic measures. No tenure would be granted, let alone promotion in academia for such performance. I don’t believe that it merely mirrors the incompetence of its developers. It is more likely the result of the lethal mix of gross incompetence and gross indifference. I do know that it sheds bad light on the excellent system developers at Microsoft whom I met several years ago in the Redmond headquarters to discuss the software and content issues of the Encarta service. They may have left, and could not be substituted. No wonder that Microsoft is so desperate to acquire Yahoo.