Online Book Searches Courtesy of Google and Microsoft

Our two Internet biggies, Google and Microsoft, are duking it out in the a course in miracles-search arena, with Microsoft’s new Live Search Books tool competing with Google’s more established Book Search .

In December 2006, Microsoft launched Live Search Books, which is still in beta testing. At launch, Live Search Books included content from the British Library, the University of Colorado and the University of Toronto, with other additions planned for later. Microsoft does not include copyright-protected materials within its data. All books are either in the public domain, or the publisher has given permission to include specific content. In time, Microsoft intends to incorporate book contents within its regular search engine.

Google’s Book Search is a component of the highly controversial Library Project–in which the multibillion-dollar corporation intends to digitize the world’s books, all in the name of public good, of course. The Association of American Publishers and the Author’s Guild object strongly to this plan, as does anyone else who sees a problem with one corporation controlling the world’s written information. Amid much debate and discussion of our admittedly murky copyright laws, Google eventually stated it would make only versions of public domain books online, while serving only “snippets” of copyrighted text. The debate continues.

Legal minds will sort this out as time passes. In the meantime, let’s see what the two Book Search tools have to offer the everyday user.

Microsoft Book Search

A visit to the Microsoft tool proves fruitful. Taking lessons from the Great Google, Microsoft has provided a clear, simple-to-use site with little to distract us.

To test it out, I tried to remember an exact quote from a book. I came up with, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,” written by a fellow named Dickens. Running the search without quotes produced a number of unrelated results, but when I added quotes, sure enough, A Tale of Two Cities turned up immediately. Since the book is in the public domain, you can download the entire 498-page book in PDF format. What you’re doing to do with a 498-page PDF file is another topic.

Let’s see what we get with something that isn’t in the public domain. Fishing Steven King’s new offering, Lisey’s Story , out of the pile under my bed, I entered the first line of the book, “To the public eye, the spouses of well-known writers are all but invisible.” Nothing. Nada. Entering the title of the first chapter had similar results. Entering simply “Lisey” turned up various hits, but none pertaining to King’s new book.

Moving on, I tried searching for the first line of Joe Vitale’s Hypnotic Marketing . This time I got a hit. The book showed up, and by signing into one of my Microsoft accounts, I was able to search through the book, using key terms. But here I encountered something interesting. The publisher has decreed that only 58 pages of the book can be accessed. Although I didn’t scroll through 58 pages to see what would happen when I reached zero, I have faith that I would not have accessed any additional pages.

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