— The Washington Post

NEW YORK — A federal judge said he would not make a decision Thursday on Google’s controversial move to digitize millions of out-of-copy books, prolonging a years-long battle to build the world’s biggest online library.

The search giant’s long and bumpy journey into digital book search and publishing stands in stark contrast to its steady march into a remarkable list of other Web-affected industries. In the past two months alone, Google began selling its own cell phone, introduced a controversial social networking feature to its e-mail program, and said it would dip into the world of telecommunications with tests for ultra-fast fiber optic networks.

U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin told a packed courtroom that he will listen with an ”open mind” to arguments for and against Google’s settlement with some authors and publishers over the right to scan and publish titles.

Walking into a courtroom at the U.S. Court of the Southern District New York with a tall stack of comments submitted by parties, Chin said: ”To end the suspense, I’m not going to rule today. There’s too much to digest. However I come out, I want to write an opinion that explains my reasoning.”

The court has received more than 500 comments ahead of the hearing, the purpose of which is to determine the fairness of a $125 million settlement struck in 2005.

The judge will hear 28 comments during the hearing — nearly all of which are from opponents of the deal who say it violates copyright laws, gives Google an unfair edge over competitors and raises privacy concerns.