Friday, May 23, 2008

Microsoft Book Search Closing its Cyberdoors

Microsoft announced today that it had advised its partners that its Live Book and Academic search services will be shutting down next week, and that they're going to stop scanning entirely. Fortunately, the content already scanned will continue to be available through Microsoft's general search interface at

This is quite unfortunate, because they had done at least as good a job with their interface, provision of metadata, and search capabilities as Google has done with their book search — and often better — and their quality control has been excellent, far better than Google's. The collection made available through Live Books never extended beyond English-language titles (at least I've never seen anything there in another language) and was nowhere near as comprehensive as Google's, but it was a useful supplement.

Some reflections can be found at the Search Engine Land blog, and additional links to related news stories at Techmeme. Peter Suber also provides some extensive quotes from other blogs at his Open Access News blog, and Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation, has posted his thoughts at his blog.

ResourceShelf last year provided a useful set of links to other large digitization projects. Oddly, neither it nor the more comprehensive British Columbia site linked there includes Gallica at the Bibliothèque nationale; Gallica is an excellent source of not only French works (including not just books but maps, images, music, and manuscripts), but also of works in other languages, Latin in particular but yes, even some in English. Its interface is less than ideal, but it's usable.

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