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San Francisco (dpa) - Online search leader Google on Wednesday expanded its book service to allow users to download files of classic books and print them free of charge.
The new service applies to books on which the copyright has expired. Copyrighted books will still appear in only strictly limited format with a few extracts.
The programme is an outgrowth of a book search service undertaken with major universities to put the text of books online and let people read such books on-screen.
Google supports the service by showing its small, keyword- generated text ads on search-results pages.
The move, which could challenge traditional booksellers, is part of the company's relentless expansion into new areas on the internet.
Earlier this week it announced an ambitious alliance with eBay to provide international advertising and internet telephony services. Google also announced plans to offer a suite of software for small businesses in a direct challenge to Microsoft's Office products.
Copyright 2006 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH