In Search of a Publisher-Friendly Book Search
The most-used computer operating system in the world is revving up to take on the world’s most-used search engine for the right to claim title to the world’s most-used online book search.
Microsoft’s game plan is to overtake Google in the book search field—by involving publishers instead of alienating them.
The forthcoming release of Microsoft’s Windows Live Book Search—a search program that is scheduled for release later this year—comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding the introduction of Google Book Search, Google’s foray into book search.
Google has taken a pounding since it presented its search in October 2004. Several law suits, both in the United States and abroad, have been filed against the Mountain View, Calif.-based company for copyright infringement. At issue is Google’s mission to make two or three pages of millions of copyright-protected text and the full text of books in the public domain available for viewing by its users. While Google already pulls excerpts from copyright-protected Web sites to preview their content in Web searches, book publishers have criticized and condemned the book project for obliging publishers to request their content not to be used.
With its direct competitors in the search engine field already fully involved in digitizing full text of books and storing them in their digital databases for search, Microsoft jumped into the game late last year. With the much-publicized missteps Google has made with its Google Book Search service since launching it, Microsoft may have learned a valuable lesson that could endear the project with publishers more than its rivals have.
The concept of Windows Live Book Search was first introduced in October and then discussed in May at Book Expo America (BEA) 2006. Since then, the Redmond, Wash.-based company has worked to gain input—including that of the book-publisher community.
“We’re not quoting specific numbers, but we’ve certainly had a very positive response, both at BEA and after BEA,” says Cliff Guren, group product manager for eReading at Microsoft. “As we make the rounds to some of the larger publishing houses, we’re also getting a very positive response from them as well. They appreciate the efforts we’re making to respect their rights and give them flexibility and control over their content.”
In June, Microsoft debuted Windows Live Books Publisher Program, a portal that allows publishers to review the company’s terms and conditions and then enroll their copyrighted books into the project via the Internet.
“As a company with a long heritage as an intellectual property company, we certainly understand the concerns of intellectual property-rights holders, and we are trying to respect those rights in the world of publishing just as we advocate for people to respect our rights in the world of software,” says Guren.
By going to a Web site designed for all rights holders to create a list of the works they’d like Microsoft to include in Windows Live Book Search, they are asked to directly participate in the program. Authors or publishers can upload digital content or ship their books to Microsoft, where the books will then be scanned and indexed for eventual search.
If rights holders want to withdraw from the program, they can do so at any time, and their content will then be removed within 30 days.
Publishers will also be able to control the manner in which their content is displayed. Microsoft offers three preview rights models.
“Publishers are responding very positively to that because we’re giving them lots of control,” Guren says.
Microsoft is also giving publishers opportunities to promote their properties in the pages that show their books. Logo links, additional promotional tags and links to publisher commerce-related Web pages.
“We’re trying to make this an opportunity for users to both discover and acquire content,” Guren said.
According to Microsoft representatives, the company
intends to focus on only using sources of public domain
and works where permission has been granted, similar to Yahoo!’s Internet Archive project, run by the Open Content Alliance. The company “will clearly respect all copyrights and work with each partner providing the information to work out a mutually agreeable protections on copyrights” by asking a copyright holder for permission before digitizing a copyrighted work.
Since its initial introduction last fall, Microsoft’s project has gone through some changes. Earlier this year, it was rebranded from its initial designation as MSN Book Search—along with many other Microsoft services that bore the Microsoft Network name—to be part of Microsoft’s new Windows Live group of online services.
Microsoft also said it plans to share paid advertising revenue with publishers who participate in the program when it appears.
Microsoft has yet to schedule a release date for the final version, but says the search will launch later this year. “That is when end users will start to see trusted, authoritative book content helping them answer their search questions,” Guren says. BB