Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

John Dvorak on the Microsoft book-scanning decision

John Dvorak, Microsoft Drops the Ball on Book Search, PC Magazine, June 3, 2008.  Excerpt:

...The shame of it is that the Microsoft scanning and the resultant search site were more useful than Google Book Search by far. For once, Microsoft was out-indexing Google....

As is often the case with Microsoft, the project was under-publicized while Google's was all over the news. According to Kahle, the Google scans are extremely restricted —libraries have to do a special deal with Google to get access to their own books in scanned form. Kahle was quite clear when he said that Google is not doing anyone any favors with its scanning efforts....

Neither company seemed interested in running advertisements on these pages....No, there seems to be no interest in any such commercialization. They are/were just loading up on content. The way I see it, Google got the idea started and has yet to show any way of monetizing it. Microsoft copied the idea —improved it, actually— but kept waiting for Google to show a way to make money on it. Since Google has not done so, Microsoft bailed out, leaving the whole scene to Google. This is seriously pathetic to watch.

There is good news, though, according to Kahle. Microsoft had claimed some sort of scanning-rights ownership of the public-domain books, thus restricting reprinting and passing around. By ending the project, Microsoft is supposedly releasing the material into the public domain where it belongs. So you can grab copies of these books if you can find them.

The problem now is finding them....

Microsoft was on the right track to perform a tremendous public service, with all the imaginable goodwill in the world attached to it. Too bad nobody noticed and Microsoft didn't really care. What a shame.