Google has developed a William Shakespeare site where users can search the celebrated writer's plays to their heart's content.

The site - Summer with Shakespeare - links with the fiftieth anniversary of New York's outdoor Shakespeare in the Park festival.

While searching within a play will find the correct quote, just reading the bard's collected works through Google can be interesting. The plays that have been scanned in full tend to be older published versions of the works - one was dated 1886 - and a few of the illustrations of the plays also feature shots of the scanner's pink fingertips.

Other sites already offer access to Shakespeare's complete works, including the MIT Shakespeare Homepage and the University of Victoria's Internet Shakespeare Editions.

Google's Shakespeare site uses the search company's controversial Google Book Search, previously known as Google Print. The company's ambitious plan to scan all the world's books and put them online in searchable form has met with much disapproval from authors and publishers around the world. Google intends to digitise all the books held by its library partners whether in the public domain or in copyright.

Authors or publishers who don't want their books scanned have to opt out of the program, an action that has generated much bad feeling. Some writers and publishers believe that Google should have to ask their permission to digitise their works, not the other way around.

Jen Grant, a member of the Google Book Search team, noted in a company blog that some print versions of Shakespeare's plays may not be in the public domain everywhere in the world.

"Where copyright status is in question, we protect the publisher by showing the Snippet View," Grant wrote. Instead of showing the complete text relating to a search of a book's content, the Snippet View instead provides some information about a work including a few excerpted sentences much like a card-catalogue listing.

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