Software giant Microsoft has begun scanning some 100,000 books in the British Library for its online book search service that will be launched in 2006. All of the books being scanned are no longer copyrighted.

Microsoft is additionally working with Open Content Alliance to put 150,000 searchable works on the Internet. Microsoft's announcement of a digital library service came after rival Google announced their intentions.

British Library chief executive Lynne Brindley said: "This is great news for research and scholarship and will give unparalleled access to our vast collections to people all over the world: they will be available to anyone, anywhere and at anytime."

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