Microsoft and the British Library have announced a deal to allow the world’s biggest software company to digitise 25 million pages of its books and make them available on the MSN web portal.
The deal, described as a strategic partnership, covers around 100,000 books, and is expected to be extended once the first batch of scanning has been completed at a cost of £1.5m to Microsoft.
Microsoft’s move is in response to Google’s well-publicised initiative to scan books to distribute through its web portal. However, Google ran into trouble when book publishers threatened action over copyright infringement.
Google is now making available its first collection of digitised books as a result of an alliance with different libraries, none of which are covered by copyright.
The British Library said that all the books Microsoft was to scan were also out of copyright. The scanned books will be made available on the library’s own website as well as the MSN site
Microsoft will start scanning books at the library next year. It has not yet decided whether to charge MSN users to read any of the books it puts online.
Industry analysts expect both Google and MSN to make thir online book content free to encourage more users to visit their portals and to help drive up advertising revenue on the sites.