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Microsoft said Friday it has signed a deal to scan 100,000 books from the British Library and put them online.

Readers will be able to search through around 25 million pages of material next year without having to visit the library in London or pay any fee.

Microsoft initially is investing $2.5 million in the project, but both sides say there are plans to digitize more titles in the future.

A plan by search engine Google — a rival to Microsoft’s MSN search engine — to upload its own digital library has been dogged by complaints from publishers that their copyrights were being infringed.

Microsoft and the British Library stressed that they would be choosing books only from the older end of the library’s vast collection of 13 million titles, as these have long fallen out of copyright.

The library said its deal with Microsoft was not exclusive — the scanned books would be posted on the British Library’s own Web site, currently freely searchable through Google.

Sound Parking

Chicago company acquires local firm

Local parking-lot operator Sound Parking will be acquired by Standard Parking, a Chicago-based company that runs nearly 2,000 locations across the country, the companies announced Friday.

Terms of the merger, set to close this quarter, were not disclosed in a news release issued late in the day. Publicly traded Standard could not be reached for comment.

Sound Parking operates 55 locations with 5,500 stalls in Bellevue and Seattle, including medical, office, hotel and event parking facilities. A 2004 study counted almost 90,000 off-street stalls in the cities’ downtowns.

William Beattie, who founded Sound Parking with partner Brad Parrish in 1999, said both will become employees of Standard, overseeing operations in the Northwest, excluding airports.

Shawn Potts, general manager of U Park System, which has about 7,800 stalls, said he did not expect the merger to make a major impact on the marketplace.


Antitrust appeal likely before April

Microsoft’s appeal against a European Union antitrust order will be heard by April, according to Judge Bo Vesterdorf, who will preside over the case.

Microsoft is appealing a March 2004 decision by EU regulators ordering the company to license information about the inner workings of its Windows operating system to competitors. Vesterdorf last year rejected the company’s attempt to suspend implementing the decision until the appeal was complete.

The hearing will be held at the European Court of First Instance “hopefully before April,” Vesterdorf, the court’s president, said Friday at a conference in Lisbon.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press and Bloomberg News