Microsoft is closing Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, according to a project blog post. To its credit, the project is coughing up equipment and scanned assets (750,000 books) to participants.
My experience with the service suggests that, again, Microsoft is finding it difficult to make the Web work. The service was very slow and felt proprietary.
However, to Microsoft’s credit, the news got out quickly because of a blog post (and a coordinated PR campaign). That’s a sign that at least some people at Microsoft “get it.”
The fact that some people at Microsoft might understand the Web has yet to show up in a Microsoft product. Their own blogging software is pretty bizarre (Blogger and WordPress beat it by a mile, and both are free to use). There is something in the genetic make-up of Microsoft that’s wrong for the Web. Even their thought of acquiring Yahoo!, which has become capable of creating its own painful online software (Yahoo! Mail is pretty awful, for instance), shows that perhaps Microsoft identifies with the wrong crowd online. As the New York Times reported at the end of last year, the velocity at Google and their fundamental approach are so different that Google now has the clear advantage developing online software.
Yet, given some trends with Google Scholar, even superior technology won’t change human nature.
When it comes to segregated academic and book searches, it might be time to turn the page.