Microsoft Betas Book Search

Microsoft  is ready to let users start poking around
the stacks.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company announced that it will release the beta version
of its Live Search Books application tomorrow.

This is an important part of the company’s strategy to turn its Windows Live
platform, which it just took out of beta in the last few days, into a hub of
experiences that create customer loyalty, thereby driving incremental
advertising revenue gains.

Windows Live offers consumer-oriented services and software, and is being
offered alongside the MSN portal as a
complementary service. The MSN search
has begun to redirect users to Live Search.

Microsoft undertook the mammoth task of scanning tens of thousands of books
from various universities around the world last year.

Currently, Live Book Search returns queries on books that are no longer
protected by copyright.

Next year, it will include books that are currently under copyright
protection as well.

That, Microsoft hopes, will make its users come back more often.

Indeed, Steve Berkowitz, vice president of Microsoft’s online services
group, stated that search is critical to keeping MSN and Live users glued to
Microsoft’s online properties.

“The goal is to turn search into a utility and stop them from leaving the
system,” he said at a Lehman Brothers technology conference yesterday.

“If we can take our 465 million unique visitors and turn them into multiple
service users, the incremental marginal revenue is hugely profitable,” he

Cliff Guren, director of publisher evangelism for Live Search Books at Microsoft, agreed
that Live Search Books is intended to make the Live search engine more sticky.

“It’s how we will aggregate a big audience over time,” he told

The company is also increasing its inventory of content.

Guren said the company just added the New York Public Library and the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine to its roster of libraries participating in the out-of-copyright scanning program, and has also updated
its Live Search Academic product with millions of new articles, mostly bio-medical content.

In the early going, consumers will need to choose the Live book “scope” in order to get search results from books. Scopes are links allowing users to refine their searches according to various media or categories, such as books, video and news.

Eventually, however, general search queries on Live will include books
alongside more traditional online content.

Guren said that his team will be phasing in the integration of book content
into general search, first with Instant Answers, and later into core search

“It’s not a transition that happens overnight,” he said.

Instant Answers appear at the top of a search results page when Microsoft
has a high level of confidence that they’ve identified the correct material.

Live Book Search began scanning books still under copyright protection in May.

Beginning sometime next year, the search engine will deliver content from
those books as search results, but only with the publishers’ consent.

“Publishers can choose from three different preview rights models and can
set parameters to display as much or as little content as they want,” said

This contrasts with Google’s  more peremptory approach, which has led to litigation on the part of libraries and publishers alike.

Berkowitz also went out of his way to say that Microsoft wants content
producers as partners.

The former executive said his strategy is to market the Microsoft
platform to its existing user base.

Microsoft, he said, has traditionally marketed itself as a technology
company, and must now learn to market itself as an experience.

“Our underlying technology is superior, but this is not a game where just
the right technology will win,” he said.

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