Microsoft Unveils Its New Book Search

A while back, we passed along the news when Google launched its Book Search site. Now, in the interest of equal time, here is Microsoft’s beta version of its own Book Search service. A friend of mine who worked on the project sent this note:

After many sleep-deprived weeks, my group at Microsoft has recently launched a beta version of our Book Search service. This first release is very much a beta, and includes only out-of-copyright (pre-1923) titles scanned at the University of California, University of Toronto, and the British Library. We’ve chosen to focus on some key areas where books could add authoritative value to search: the 1,000 or so great works (e.g. Huck Finn, etc…) as well as books related to American History, Religion and Philosophy.

I am asking for your help, as appreciators of the written word, to use the service a bit and then share your reactions, comments, complaints etc. I hope you find it useful and interesting.

So here is your chance to whisper, albeit indirectly, into Bill Gates’s ear.


rldaggie

Microsoft has become the "Me Too" company. They should stick to video games.

simulant

I'm a big fan of both sites. I've got a few suggestions:

1.) Keep scanning every public domain book you can get your hands on. I really believe this is an important project. (and the more the merrier, though perhaps you could work with Google instead of duplicating effort)

2.) I'd like to see more books of drawings, paintings, photographs, and maps. (This would probably generate more interest in the project...)

3.) I'd like to see all the classic works of the great artists, scientists, architects & philosophers, etc... in their original form or as close to original as possible.

I'm talking about things like Da Vinci's original notebooks/codices (Bill should be able to help there...), Darwin's notebooks, Galileo's notes, Mayan Codices, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Picasso's sketches, etc...

This stuff is (or should be) all public domain but it can be incredibly difficult to find good copies. I suspect much of the original material is in the hands of private collectors and will never be shared with the public, but surely the Universities involved in the project have sizable collections of such material. Don't save the best till last!

4.) A better way to actually browse books through a browser, as you would in a book store. Fore example, some way to distinguish (at a glance) the coffee table books from the pamphlets and the illustrated books from the novels would be very helpful.

Read more...

bertie wooster

Far as I can see it doesn't have an authour or title search. So a search for 'Uneasy Money' - a Wodehouse title from 1916 serves thousands of results - with the book nowhere to be seen in at least the frst page. There's got to be a better way to search.

Jemaleddin

Hey Bill, leave a suitcase filled with 10 million dollars in cash on the doorstep of...

Oh, you wanted comments about the book search? How about this: thanks for wussing out and giving people a search of books that they could have gotten from Google and the Project Gutenberg website.

ejp1082

Copyright law - or at least the fear of being sued under copyright law - ruins yet another potentially invaluable service. Are we really to presume that we're "promoting the progress of science and the useful arts" by keeping most of the work of the 20th century from being discovered?

Can you imagine if we could only search web pages created before 1999?

At least Google has the guts to deal with this head on. Shame on Microsoft for not doing this right.

hoppdawg

ummm... This is great and all, but who would ever want to read a whole book via computer monitor? These classic, copyrighted books are readily available for free from libraries and can be bought for under ten dollars. (not to mention Google beat them to the chase.)

I'm not Nostradamus, but the only use I see is for high school kids writing book reports on books they didn't read to quickly search for a certain passage or phrase to include in their paper.

I think Microsoft is feeling the heat, desperately trying new avenues in hopes their doomed business model can evolve.

ejp1082

#6 -

It's not (necessarily) about reading copies of classic literature on your computer monitor. It's about discovering books that you didn't even know existed, filled with information and insight that have until now been lost to history.

The real point is that Dewey Decimal is pretty blunt instrument. The libraries of the world have hundreds of millions of volumes of books between them, and no one knows what's in them. Except, now, for Google. With that little search box, everyone on the planet can browse the new Library of Alexandria (minus the 20th century).

The entirety of human knowledge has just been opened up to you, and the best application you can think of is High School kids cheating on term papers?

spayced

I've been using project Gutenberg for years (was started in 1971) and I still like it better than google and microsoft free books.
http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

rldaggie

Microsoft has become the "Me Too" company. They should stick to video games.

simulant

I'm a big fan of both sites. I've got a few suggestions:

1.) Keep scanning every public domain book you can get your hands on. I really believe this is an important project. (and the more the merrier, though perhaps you could work with Google instead of duplicating effort)

2.) I'd like to see more books of drawings, paintings, photographs, and maps. (This would probably generate more interest in the project...)

3.) I'd like to see all the classic works of the great artists, scientists, architects & philosophers, etc... in their original form or as close to original as possible.

I'm talking about things like Da Vinci's original notebooks/codices (Bill should be able to help there...), Darwin's notebooks, Galileo's notes, Mayan Codices, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Picasso's sketches, etc...

This stuff is (or should be) all public domain but it can be incredibly difficult to find good copies. I suspect much of the original material is in the hands of private collectors and will never be shared with the public, but surely the Universities involved in the project have sizable collections of such material. Don't save the best till last!

4.) A better way to actually browse books through a browser, as you would in a book store. Fore example, some way to distinguish (at a glance) the coffee table books from the pamphlets and the illustrated books from the novels would be very helpful.

Read more...

bertie wooster

Far as I can see it doesn't have an authour or title search. So a search for 'Uneasy Money' - a Wodehouse title from 1916 serves thousands of results - with the book nowhere to be seen in at least the frst page. There's got to be a better way to search.

Jemaleddin

Hey Bill, leave a suitcase filled with 10 million dollars in cash on the doorstep of...

Oh, you wanted comments about the book search? How about this: thanks for wussing out and giving people a search of books that they could have gotten from Google and the Project Gutenberg website.

ejp1082

Copyright law - or at least the fear of being sued under copyright law - ruins yet another potentially invaluable service. Are we really to presume that we're "promoting the progress of science and the useful arts" by keeping most of the work of the 20th century from being discovered?

Can you imagine if we could only search web pages created before 1999?

At least Google has the guts to deal with this head on. Shame on Microsoft for not doing this right.

hoppdawg

ummm... This is great and all, but who would ever want to read a whole book via computer monitor? These classic, copyrighted books are readily available for free from libraries and can be bought for under ten dollars. (not to mention Google beat them to the chase.)

I'm not Nostradamus, but the only use I see is for high school kids writing book reports on books they didn't read to quickly search for a certain passage or phrase to include in their paper.

I think Microsoft is feeling the heat, desperately trying new avenues in hopes their doomed business model can evolve.

ejp1082

#6 -

It's not (necessarily) about reading copies of classic literature on your computer monitor. It's about discovering books that you didn't even know existed, filled with information and insight that have until now been lost to history.

The real point is that Dewey Decimal is pretty blunt instrument. The libraries of the world have hundreds of millions of volumes of books between them, and no one knows what's in them. Except, now, for Google. With that little search box, everyone on the planet can browse the new Library of Alexandria (minus the 20th century).

The entirety of human knowledge has just been opened up to you, and the best application you can think of is High School kids cheating on term papers?

spayced

I've been using project Gutenberg for years (was started in 1971) and I still like it better than google and microsoft free books.
http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page