Microsoft started its long promised Book Search in beta with the first set of thousands of out-of-copyright books.
The MSN Book Search interface is divided into two sides. On the left side you are provided with the option to download the whole book, see snippets of text on pages, where your search terms appear or refine your search within the book. The right side of the screen devoted to reading is fixed. Microsoft doesn’t offer zoom in or full screen options for the reading panel, which is a little inconvenient for users with small pc screen and visual problems. Overall MSN Book Search provides you with less details about the book ( no summary, no key terms, citations from other books, links to relevant books etc), but I suspect that this is going to change.
Few weeks ago Google announced improvements for its Book Search program. The engineers explained that they have enhanced the "About this book" section, where depending on the book record users can find basic bibliographic information ( author, publisher, ISBN), key terms and phrases, short summary of the book and related books.
To bring more relevant material for your book search, Google has also worked on "References from books" and "References from scholarly works" sections. Another obvious improvement is the new interface, where users can view books in full screen, in one or two page mode, scroll or flip trough the pages and jump directly to chapters of interest.
"Once you find a book you might be interested in, you can now see its chapter titles, key terms, and selected pages all on the same page, helping you get a feel for it." summarizes Okan Kolak, Google Software Engineer in his Inside Google Book Search blog. Greg Notess from Search Engine Showdown also has posted a thorough review on the new changes in Google Book Search.