Google Book Search. Google Inc. http://books.google.com/. (Accessed December 2007-March 2008) [Requires a Web browser and an Internet Connection.]
Live Search Books. Microsoft Corporation. http://books.live.com. (Accessed December 2007-March 2008) [Requires a Web browser and an Internet Connection.] [N.B. In May 2008, as this review was going to press, Microsoft cancelled the Live Search Books project. Content from the project is to be incorporated into Live Search results, but there will be no further digitization and no separate interface. See http://blogs .msdn.com/livesearch/archive/2008/05/23/book-search-winding-down .aspx for details.]
Google Book Search and Live Search Books are making the full text of books available to anyone with access to the Internet. The two are differentiated by their approaches to finding books, and to searching within them. Google takes a librarian's approach to the problem: they provide a lot of information and multiple ways to access it. This allows for incredible precision in searching. Microsoft takes a consumer's approach, with a smaller amount of information, but with a focus on legibility and browseability. This lends itself towards a more populist form of access.
The Google Book project is the larger of the two, and it now includes the books of almost twenty major research libraries, as well as content supplied by publishers. Live Search Books is a significantly smaller project, with books drawn from far fewer universities and publishers. Another major difference between the two is transparency. In its "Help" pages, Google provides information about who is contributing (although they do not state what they are contributing); the philosophy behind the project; and how the company views the copyright issues. This transparency follows all the way through to the somewhat flexible design of the search interface itself. Live Search makes none of this help information easily available from the search pages. Microsoft's product, while being much more opaque, nonetheless has some promising features.
While both databases have wide subject scopes, this review is concerned only with the music-related content. When approaching either collection, it is important to remember that a majority of the fullyaccessible texts will be those in the public domain (published before 1923). Depending on the wishes of the authors and publishers, works still in copyright may display no text, partial text, or occasionally, full text. Google has four types of availability: "Full View," where the entire text is viewable, "Limited Preview," where entire chunks of the book are displayed while others are left out, "Snippet View," where only some of the sentences with search results are displayed, and "No Preview Available," where no information is displayed, verifying only that the search retrieved the item. Live Search Books has a simpler system for the viewing of books. The user can limit to "100% viewable" texts, or "See all content." Next to each result, Live Search indicates what percentage of the text is viewable, and a user who is signed in with a Microsoft Network account can select which pages are displayed.
Microsoft does better than Google at the actual scanning of books. In Google Books, the scanning is uneven, with some pages that are askew or even illegible, whereas Live Search has well-aligned scans, with fewer legibility issues. Microsoft also scans in color, as opposed to Google's black and white. The difference probably arises from the fact that Google's project is much larger, and is growing at a rapid rate, while Microsoft's project seems to be fairly small.
When it comes to manipulating the actual images of the books, however, Google has much more flexibility. Live Search allows for either a "full page" or a "fit to width" option, which requires a lot of scrolling to read a single page. Google provides basic zooming, a single- or doublepage layout, and a "grab" hand similar to Adobe Acrobat Reader. …