Microsoft starts own virtual library to challenge Google

Microsoft will unveil an online library that will compete with Google's controversial project to digitize the world's books, a company statement, quoted by an AFP report said.

The AFP report said Microsoft would launch a US test of Live Search Books featuring tens of thousands of out-of-copyright books, including works held by the British library and major universities in Toronto and California.

Quoting a blog entry by Cliff Guren, project director for Microsoft, the AFP report said Microsoft "will focus on making the reading experience as natural as possible.'

'The US beta launch of Live Search Books is a big step forward in advancing the way people discover information through the integration of content that has been off-limits to the traditional search experience, until now,' the blog entry said.

The AFP report said Microsoft has made fresh book-scanning partnerships with New York Public Library and the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine, according to Guren.

In late August, Google restarted its Google Book Search project initiated in 2004 with the lofty aim of scanning every literary work into digital format and making them available online.

Google has formed partnerships with major universities such as Harvard, Oxford, the New York Public Library, Complutense of Madrid and the University of California to add their collections to its virtual bookshelves.