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U.C. system signs on to Microsoft book-scan project

University of California, University of Toronto join British Library in helping search up-and-comer stack its digital library shelves.

Two leading research institutions haven issued library cards to Microsoft so the software giant and search up-and-comer can scan their collections.

The University of California and the University of Toronto libraries have agreed to lend their collections of out-of-copyright material held in trust. In concert with the Open Content Alliance, Microsoft will scan and index the materials for use in its Windows Live Book Search, according to a Microsoft statement issued Friday.

Like Google Book Search and's Look Inside feature, Windows Live Book Search is being designed to enable full-text searches of books. The Microsoft project, however, will be built slightly differently than Google Book Search.

Google enlisted the help of Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities, along with the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library, when it began its initial project to scan books for a full-text digital library. But publishers and writers asserted that copyright infringement laws would be an issue. Amid last year's news of pending lawsuits against Google, Microsoft said it would be starting a less controversial book project. The software juggernaut joined the Open Content Alliance and later recruited the British Library as one of its sources for material.

Google is requiring publishers to opt-out if they don't want their material made available on Google Book Search. Microsoft has tried to differentiate its book project by taking an opt-in approach: The company says it will digitize only public domain materials and those in-copyright materials expressly permitted by the publisher.

Microsoft has set up a tool for publishers wishing to make in-copyright material available. The Windows Live Books Publisher Program enables publishers to submit in-copyright material to Windows Live Book Search in both digital and physical-print forms.

The idea behind digital libraries is that published information offers an alternative and accurate source of information from that gleaned via general Web searches. Digital libraries could also make a collective cultural archive globally accessible.

The announcement is part of Microsoft's push to expand its Windows Live applications in new ways. A few months ago, Microsoft added Windows Live Academic to compete with Google Scholar, an engine for searching academic publications. Another new application announcement is expected at next week's TechEd conference in Boston.

Windows Live Book Search is not yet available on the Windows Live Ideas beta Web site.