Fahrenheit 451: Microsoft burns its Live Search Books effort

Faced with competition, and more likely lack of traffic, Microsoft has stopped scanning books and will shutter is public Live Search Books site next week.

According to Microsoft, it has scanned some 750,000 books and indexed about 80 million journal articles since its launch two years ago. It is not clear what will happen to the content that the company had already scanned.

It did say however that it will remove contractual obligations to its scans, and provide publishers with digital copies of their books. On top of that, the scanning equipment will be made available to partners and libraries so they may continue to scan books if they so desire.

"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," search, portal, and advertising chief Satya Nadella said.

Exact statistics are not available for Google or Microsoft's archival efforts, however Microsoft has had the easier time from a legal aspect. While Google has been hit by a litany of lawsuits from both writers and publishers, the Redmond company has made all attempts to avoid a similar fate.

As numbers from comScore confirm all too clearly, Google's lead in search is widening quickly: by an over three-to-one margin now against Yahoo, and by an embarrassing margin against MSN / Windows Live.

More evidence that Live Search books is not doing well could be inferred from earnings posted for the most recent quarter for both companies, ending March 31. Google posted a profit of $1.3 billion on revenues of $5.3 billion. Its business is mostly based on search.

Contrast this with Microsoft's online services division, which lost $228 million on revenues of $4 billion. Both are spending the same amount of money on divisions whose principal properties are based on search, when all is said and done, yet Google is the one is making money at it.

To assist publishers in the transition, Microsoft said it will partner with Ingram Digital Group to help leverage sales and marketing opportunities gained from its participation in Live Search Books.

"We have learned a tremendous amount from our experience and believe this decision, while a hard one, can serve as a catalyst for more sustainable strategies," Nadella said.

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