Does Live Book Search Beat Google?

    December 6, 2006

Today marks the launch of MSN’s Live Book Search, a beta offering aimed at giving users an initial taste of what Live Search has to offer in the realm of literary works. The service will perform keyword searches for books that have thus far been scanned in by Microsoft as part of the project.

Live Book Search is Microsoft’s competitive answer to Google Book Search, a service that offers users a similar experience in searching for, reading, and even downloading digital representations of many literary works.

“The U.S. 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,” says Cliff Guren, Director of Publisher Evangelism at Microsoft.

“This release makes tens of thousands of out-of-copyright books available from our library scanning initiative, including books from the University of California, the University of Toronto, and the British Library. In addition, we are announcing new partnerships with the New York Public Library and the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine.”

Does Live Book Search represent a valid threat to Google? I decided to compare the two services for myself to find out. For the purposes of the experiment, I settled upon The Iliad by Homer as a satisfactory piece of literature for both search engines to work with.

I immediately noticed that Live Book Search offers no advanced search features. This is somewhat frustrating, as The Iliad has been published many times over and I was mainly interested in finding a specific incarnation. Instead, I was left to sift through the search results in a vain effort to track down the version that I wanted to read.

Google Book Search does, however, offer advanced search features. Not only am I able to search for keywords in any number of different combinations, but I can also search by Title, Author, Publisher, Publication Date, and even ISBN number. Round one clearly goes to Google here.

After I actually found what I was looking for in Live Book Search, I pulled it up in order to get busy reading. The reading experience in Microsoft’s product is too inorganic for words.

Scrolling in order to see all the text is fine when assimilating small bits of information in web articles and such, but not when it comes to reading a hefty piece of literature. If I’m actually going to spend any amount of time in front of my PC reading a book, I want the experience to be as comfortable as possible. Live Book Search offers limited options to change the view options, none of which are desirable.

Again, we come back to Google to see how things should be done. I bring up the book in my browser, select the full screen option, and then switch to two-page view. With two mouse clicks, I have the virtual replica of a tangible novel sitting right in front of me, no scrolling required.

In all fairness, this is the first beta offering that the Live Book Search team has offered up for consumption. Perhaps Microsoft will take note of these types of features and implement them into future installments of the service. If not, however, I have to assume that Google will grow to dominate the sphere of book search as well.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.