Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) and Ingram Digital Group (www.ingramdigital.com) have signed an agreement whereby Microsoft’s Live Search Books program (http://books.live.com) will outsource high-volume scanning and digital management services to the Ingram Digital Group. The agreement calls for Ingram to act as an outsource partner for content acquisition, scanning, metadata management, and account management for publishers participating in the program. The Microsoft/Ingram project and Microsoft’s library projects will strengthen the competition with Google Book Search. Ingram’s experience with negotiating with book publishers, creating and distributing ebooks, and managing digital content as well as their trusted relationships with book publishers will help Microsoft move forward with the program.
Danielle Tiedt, general manager of Live Search selection, said, "The partnership with Ingram enables us to significantly expand our content integration capabilities. Ingram will provide us with support in three key areas; scanning, account management, and digital file quality assurance." Tiedt added that she expects to work with Ingram on their print-on-demand platform and digital content management capabilities.
Ingram’s perspective on the project was provided by James Gray, president of Ingram Digital Group. He called the alliance a natural partnership. Ingram scans titles for publishers submitting materials for Live Search Books. Ingram then OCRs the material and produces a digital edition, which is uploaded into Live Search Books. "At the same time, publishers send us digital files for uploading." Gray added, "We end up with a scenario where the publisher has agreed to submit content to Windows Live and we enable that to happen. At the same time, under the terms of the agreement, we can work with the publisher to get those titles into our own digital group e-book program. We are enabling the publisher to go straight from the start to get that content into distribution channels, both in print and in digital form through our activities."
Microsoft is working with The British Library, the University of California, Cornell University, the University of Toronto, and The New York Public Library to digitize out-of-copyright materials for Live Search. These books are 100 percent viewable and can be downloaded at no cost to the consumer. I asked Gray if there were any plans to integrate the out-of-copyright materials from libraries. He said that there were no plans, and he sees opportunities for a print-on-demand capability in this area. The Ingram project will deal with copyrighted materials. Microsoft will select from and negotiate with publishers on the inclusion of content and license terms. Tiedt indicated, "The preview of in-copyright titles is managed by the rights holder. We offer three preview options—from small ‘contextual snippets’ to 100 percent preview." Users of copyrighted books will be referred to online retailers to obtain print copies of books. Unlike Google Book Search, Microsoft has not provided the capability to access OCLC’s WorldCat to refer customers to libraries holding the desired title. Cliff Guren, director of publisher evangelism for Microsoft, told me that they are exploring access to WorldCat from Book Search.
It is not clear how Microsoft will work with libraries in the Book Search offering. Ingram has made its ebooks program (www.myilibrary.com) available to libraries globally. The ebook program has about 60,000 titles and is growing at the rate of 1,000 titles per week.
I asked both Tiedt and Gray about the ability to download or purchase single chapters from books. Faculty teaching courses in some areas want students to read several authors on the same subject and do not want to ask their students to buy three or four different books for one or two chapters in each book. Different scholars treat the same topic in different ways. They may treat the topic differently over time. Scholars may solve the same problem in different ways. Tiedt said that Microsoft was not offering chapters at this time. She anticipates offering "digital-on-demand" capability sometime in the future. Gray indicated, "We are giving publishers the opportunity to do that type of publishing. We will be seeing more chapter publishing and more dissection of content." He added that Wiley is offering a service enabling people to combine chapters from Wiley books.
Joe Wikert, vice president and executive publisher at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., discussed changes in book publishing in a presentation to the Association of Information and Dissemination Centers (www.asidic.org/meetings/spring07.htm). He advised publishers to separate content into component parts. Each piece of content should be indexed and tagged so that each part has meaning and is accessible. Wikert also advised publishers to develop platforms that offer content through retailers and directly to consumers.
While book consumers have more choices in how they acquire content, there is more that can be done. Google Search and Live Book Search have the opportunity to expand those choices and expand the marketplace for publishers. While users of Live Book Search can click through to retailers and Google Book Search users can find a library source, Gray pointed out that Ingram can help publishers by enabling consumers to buy digital copies of books, in and out of copyright and in and out of print. Microsoft also would benefit from an enriched system that offered more choices to consumers.
Background on Microsoft Live Search Books and Google Book Search
"Google Book Search Has a Busy Week," June 18, 2007 (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=36691)
"Microsoft Launches Live Search Books," Dec. 11, 2006 (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=18787)
"Microsoft Launches Book Digitization Project—MSN Book Search," Oct. 31, 2005 (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=16090)