Microsoft to Digitize 100,000 Books

Not to be left out of the party, Microsoft joined the online book movement Friday by announcing a deal with the British Library to digitize 25 million pages of content from the library's collection during the next year. The two organizations also plan to continue the process after the first phase is complete.

Google announced early on Thursday that it was going ahead with plans to digitize books as part of its Google Print initiative. The news was followed Thursday afternoon by Amazon unveiling a program that would allow consumers to purchase portions of and entire books for viewing online.

About 100,000 out-of-copyright books will be digitized by Microsoft -- ten times the number of books that are already available from Google Print -- for a new service called MSN Book Search. Microsoft hopes to have a beta available sometime next year.

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"Our partnership with the British Library is not only about digitization and preservation, but also about delivering a great experience for people accessing this amazing collection through British Library and MSN Web sites," Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said in a statement.

Microsoft recently became a member of the Open Content Alliance, a group comprised of Yahoo and the Internet Archive, which is attempting to digitize books in the public domain, or where the copyright holder has given permission for the content to be brought online.

The company has already been working with the British Library to provide the infrastructure necessary to carry out the initiative to create a digital library. The system will be based upon open standards, the two groups said.

"This is great news for research and scholarship and will give unparalleled access to our vast collections to people all over the world: the items digitised will be available to anyone, anywhere and at any time," said British library head Lynee Brindley.

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