Live Search Books, Academic to shut down

In a memo posted this morning on the Live Search blog by Senior Vice President Search, Portal and Advertising Satya Nadella, both Live Search Books and Live Search Academic will be shut down next week.

Today we informed our partners that we are ending the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects and that both sites will be taken down next week. Books and scholarly publications will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes.

This also means that we are winding down our digitization initiatives, including our library scanning and our in-copyright book programs. We recognize that this decision comes as disappointing news to our partners, the publishing and academic communities, and Live Search users.

Given the evolution of the Web and our strategy, we believe the next generation of search is about the development of an underlying, sustainable business model for the search engine, consumer, and content partner. For example, this past Wednesday we announced our strategy to focus on verticals with high commercial intent, such as travel, and offer users cash back on their purchases from our advertisers. With Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, we digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles. Based on our experience, we foresee that the best way for a search engine to make book content available will be by crawling content repositories created by book publishers and libraries. With our investments, the technology to create these repositories is now available at lower costs for those with the commercial interest or public mandate to digitize book content. We will continue to track the evolution of the industry and evaluate future opportunities.

While this may be disappointing news to some, it releases Live Search from the ambitious but daunting, expensive, and legally slippery task of digitizing and making available books and academic publications in-house.  It also continues to focus Live Search on commercial search, dropping some of the more esoteric but expensive niche products and concentrating on hitting Google where it hurts, in gaining search share for the most lucrative searches, those involved in potential commercial sales. From a press release at Advance08:  “According to eMarketer Inc., U.S. online retail is projected to grow to $335 billion by 2012, and today 68 percent of all those retail transactions begin at a search engine. This translates to 3.7 billion commerce-related queries a month.”  By focusing on commercial search, Microsoft may not have to gain as much in overall search share in order to “disrupt in search”.