Microsoft Closes the Book on Online Library

Microsoft has ended its quest to create an online library of the world’s books as the technology titan revamps its strategy to battle internet search king Google.

Live Search Books and Live Search Academics projects are being cancelled and the websites will be taken down next week, Microsoft senior vice president of search Satya Nadella said in an online posting.

“This also means that we are winding down our digitization initiatives, including our library scanning and our in-copyright book programs,” Nadella wrote.

“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.”

Microsoft launched its online library projects after Google embarked on an ambitious and controversial campaign to make all written works available free online in digital format.

“Microsoft has been chasing Google pretty aggressively and that is just foolish on their behalf,” Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle said.

“I think Microsoft is understanding that chasing Google is just stupid and discontinuing efforts that don’t make sense for them is smart.”

Analysts say Google’s undisputed position as king of online search and advertising frees it to devote riches to building a global online library in keeping with its stated mission of indexing the world’s information.

But they argue Microsoft, a distant third in online search, cannot afford to waste online search division resources on a questionably profitable, legally troublesome and labor intensive campaign to digitize books.

Publishers and authors have lashed out at Google for what they see as violations of copyrights.

“For a while there Microsoft was doing everything Google did,” analyst Matt Rosoff of independent firm Directions on Microsoft said.

“They got into books because Google did. Google has gotten flak and Microsoft looked at the minuses and pluses and said that is not a business we need to be in right now, let Google have it.”

Abandoning the online book project comes as Microsoft revamps a solo strategy for wresting market share from Google.

Microsoft announced that it will reward US Live Search shoppers with cash for purchases, essentially trying to buy the market share it tried to win with its failed bid to take over Yahoo.

Under the program, shoppers using Microsoft’s internet search service will have percentages of purchases refunded.

“Given the evolution of the web and our strategy, 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,” Nadella wrote.

Microsoft said its strategy includes honing search services in categories such as travel which have high potential for money-making advertising.

“I hope this means they will be competing more intelligently going forward instead of reacting tactically to Google,” Enderle said of Microsoft.

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