Microsoft's MSN internet division is planning to join the Open Content Alliance (OCA) and bolster its efforts to scan and digitise publicly available books.
The OCA earlier this month started scanning public domain books in cooperation with Yahoo, HP Labs and several large libraries including the UK National Archives and the universities of California and Toronto.
MSN aims to offer users access to the OCA scanned works through its search engine. This will help improve the ability of individuals to search online, Microsoft claimed. Currently over 50 per cent of the online queries go unanswered.
Microsoft joining the group further strengthens the OCA's efforts in competing against Google Print. The Google project, which is currently on hold, aims to scan both copyrighted and public domain works. It is planning to allow users of its search engine to search those materials and view excerpts.
The OCA is taking a more gentle approach by limiting itself to books in the public domain, while working with copyright owners to legally scan copyrighted materials.
Google Print has met fierce opposition from publishers, who have filed two separate lawsuits against the search engine for violating copyrights. However, the company last week said that it remains dedicated to the project.
"[Google Print] is crucial to our company's mission. We're dedicated to helping the world find information, and there's too much information in books that cannot yet be found online," said Google's general counsel David Drummond.
"We think you should be able to search through every word of every book ever written, and come away with a list of relevant books to buy or find at your local library. We aim to make that happen, but to do so we'll need to build and maintain an index containing all this information."
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