In an apparent bid to copy everything Google is doing, Microsoft announced this morning that it, too, would begin scanning in books so that consumers using its MSN Search service could perform Web searches against that content. However, Microsoft is also seeking to avoid the controversy Google has found itself in, by promising to only scan in books and other publications that are in the public domain. Google is also seeking to provide copyrighted works to its search users.

Microsoft's book scanning initiative is called MSN Book Search. "We are excited to be working with libraries worldwide to digitize and index information from the world’s printed materials, taking another step in our efforts to better answer people’s questions with trusted content from the best sources," says Christopher Payne, the corporate vice president of MSN Search at Microsoft. "We believe people will benefit from the ability to not just view a page, but to easily act on that data in contextually relevant ways, both online in the search experience and in the applications they are using."

Microsoft is working with the Internet Archive to scan in, or digitize, public domain and other non-copyrighted content. The company says that it "will clearly respect all copyrights and work with each partner providing the information to work out mutually agreeable protections for copyrights." This neatly sidesteps an issue Google has faced recently, where book publishers have threatened to sue the company for scanning copyright works.