While Google has committed to continuing its partnership with Harvard University, the New York Public Library, various publishers, and a variety of groups to scan and digitize their books, Microsoft has bowed out of this market. The Los Angeles Times reported that
Microsoft Corp. is ending a program that lets Web users search through digital versions of books, ceding the market to Google Inc.
The move will allow Microsoft to focus on other types of Internet searches, such as travel listings, Senior Vice President Satya Nadella said in a blog posting Friday. Spokesman Scott Trepanier declined to say how much Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft had spent on the book project.
The Microsoft effort has already digitized three quarters of a million books and several million journal articles.
This is still a maturing breed of web content, regardless of the players. A search on Google Books for an English version of Newton's Principia Mathematica left me empty-handed. I did find an Old English version of Opticks, however, much to the delight of my physics class (*sarcasm here*). The site is searchable by books available for preview only (and contains links to actually purchase the books) as well as books that are available electronically for free. If I read Latin, Principia could be mine for just a few seconds of download time.
The Times article questions exactly how search engines like Google can monetize such an effort. This remains to be seen, but I have little doubt that a click through to Amazon to buy Stephen King's Duma Key after I was hooked by the preview pages nets Google a bit of money.
A better question is just how fast will new educational content come online and how can we best exploit it in the classroom?