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SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 26 (AFP) - US software colossus Microsoft announced plans on Wednesday to launch an online library of books and other written works.
A "beta" version of MSN Book Search will go into service online next year, Microsoft said in a written release.
"We are excited to be working with libraries worldwide to digitize and index information from the world's printed materials," said Christopher Payne, corporate vice president of MSN Search.
"We believe people will benefit from the ability to not just view a page, but to easily act on that data in contextually relevant ways, both online in the search experience and in the applications they are using."
Microsoft will start its library with books in the public domain then expand it to include other works, according to the company.
Microsoft's digital text compilation will consist primarily of material that is not copyrighted and it will strive to work out deals with the owners of written works before including them in the online library, the company said.
Microsoft was evidently trying to avoid the kind of criticism and contention its Internet rival Google provoked with a plan to amass all the world's books in an online archive.
Google unveiled its project, "Google Print," in October 2004.
Google suspended the plan in August after being lambasted internationally by authors, traditional libraries and publishing houses that claimed copyrights were being threatened.
Google's print production manager Adam Smith said at the time that Google would not scan any more copyrighted books until November, to give publishers a chance to figure out what books they want kept from the planned online library.
In April, 19 European national libraries announced a multi-million euro counter-offensive aimed at blocking Google's quest to create a global virtual library.
The alliance, organized by France's national library, formed after Michigan University and four other top libraries -- Harvard, Stanford, New York Public Library and the Bodleian in Oxford -- made a deal with Google to digitize millions of their books and make them freely available online.
Google has consulted with publishers, authors and trade organizations to assuage concerns about copyrights, according to Smith.
Google invited publishers to provide lists of copyrighted works they want logged in the online library so the search engine can refer potential readers their way to buy the books in one form or another.
Google also offered to keep publishers and authors updated on interest in their books and share revenue from "contextual advertising."
The Google Print project rattled the cultural establishment in Paris, raising fears that French language and ideas could be just sidelined on the World Wide Web, already dominated by English.
French President Jacques Chirac, at one point, asked Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and France's National Library president Jean-Noel Jeanneney to study how collections in libraries in France and Europe could be more widely and more rapidly distributed via Internet.
Jeanneney said at the time that Google's plan confirmed "the risk of a crushing American domination in the definition of how future generations conceive the world."
The alliance opposing Google's plan included national libraries in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
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