Microsoft is quietly shutting down its book digitization initiative, which launched in 2006 as a response to Google's efforts in working with major university libraries to scan their collections - copyright protected or not - and allow users to search them via the search engine.

Microsoft cites an strategic decision on their part to focus investments in new vertical search areas as the reason for pulling the plug. The company will give its scanning equipment to its library and digitization partners suggesting the future of the project now rests on them, though in reality Microsoft's move could very well hand the future of digital books to arch-rival Google. That's not to say the search giant hasn't had its own share of problems in this space, as their book scanning project has been the subject of several lawsuits filed by publishers and authors who say that Google must first ask their permission before scanning their books.