Microsoft shuts down book search

Microsoft said it is shutting down its book scanning and book search projects

Microsoft plans to shutter its book-scanning operation this week, the company said on Friday.

It will shut down the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic Web sites and stop scanning library and copyright books, Satya Nadella, senior vice president of search, portal and advertising for Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

Microsoft appears to have decided that it doesn't want to be in the business of creating digital content, instead hoping that others will take on that task. The company will give its scanning equipment to its library and digitization partners and encourage them to continue to scan books. "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," Nadella wrote.

Microsoft has scanned 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles during the life of the projects, he said. That material will still be available in Live search results, but not through separate indexes.

Nadella pointed to a strategy shift at Microsoft outlined by Bill Gates at the Advance08 advertising conference earlier this week. Echoing Gates' statements, Nadella wrote: "...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." That was Gates' explanation for the idea behind Cashback, a new service from Microsoft that pays people for buying online items from advertisers on Live.

The shift in search advertising strategy comes just after Microsoft pulled its US$44.6 billion offer for Yahoo. A deal of some sort could still happen between the companies, which say they are talking about a transaction that might not involve a full acquisition.

Microsoft had agreements with libraries including the University of California, the University of Toronto and the British Library to scan their books. It also had deals with McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster and Yale University Press to include copyright works in its index.

Microsoft's project followed one launched by Google. Google's project came under heavy fire and has been the subject of several lawsuits filed by publishers and authors who say that Google must first ask their permission before scanning their books. Google allows authors and publishers to opt out of the project. The search giant is scanning books from libraries at Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library.

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