Microsoft to catch up on its reading

Super scanner and Cornell join Microsoft's project to digitize tomes for the Windows Live Book Search project. Photo: Robotic scanner

A super scanner and a major university have agreed to work on Microsoft's book digitization project.

Kirtas Technologies, a maker of high-speed scanners and digitization software, signed a deal Tuesday with Microsoft to scan works for its Windows Live Book Search project.

The Cornell University Library also signed on Tuesday with Microsoft as a partner, agreeing to let its collection be scanned. The project, when complete, will make public domain works, as well as copyrighted material from publishers who opt-in, freely available through Microsoft's online Web application.

Kirtas' robotic book scanners, according to the company, can scan 2,400 pages per hour and offer "book handling that is gentler than the human hand."

Kirtas book scanner

The works scanned by Kirtas will become available via Windows Live Book Search starting in early 2007. Cornell librarians will have a hand in choosing which versions of books to scan and overseeing quality control of the digitization process, according to Cornell.

The program is a direct competitor to Google Book Search, which already has many works available online in full text, and has enlisted libraries including the New York Public Library and Oxford University in its endeavor.

Google, however, has taken the opposite approach to Microsoft, requiring publishers to opt-out if they do not want their copyrighted works to be scanned. The method has resulted in several lawsuits in different countries.

Google has argued that Google Book Search does not allow full access to copyrighted works, as it does with public domain works--many of which are available as and Yahoo also have book digitizing projects under way. They were , along with Microsoft, in September as part of Google's defense in one of its lawsuits.

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