Is this the end of the local library?

MSN has announced a new service called MSN Book Search, an digital online library which will help people find content on the web from print resources

MSN has announced a new service called MSN Book Search, an digital online library which will help people find content on the web from print resources such as books and periodicals.

An initial beta of the service will be launched next year, which will make available books that are in the public domain and have not been copyrighted. MSN will, though, also be joining the Open Content Alliance (OCA), with the ultimate aim of legally scanning copyright protected work too.

MSN says the motivation behind the service is to rectify the frustration of web queries, 50% of which go unanswered on today's search engines.

It will compete with Google's existing service, Print (shown above), which has raised the copyright issues of such projects, resulting in several lawsuits against the company from publishing houses. Google says its service is legal, and always makes a set of pages unavailable from each book to defend against such legal difficulties.

Despite the additional defence that web pages, blogs and blooks are already indexed in such a way, Microsoft was naturally at pains to point out that it will 'clearly respect all copyrights and work with each partner to work out mutually agreeable copyright protection'.

Whatever the legal wranglings, the big question has to be that, with such a mind-boggling amount of web material available, can the local library survive? We reckon so, but it could be about to get even quieter than usual.