Part Six: Bookstores vs. Online
How the Kindle is Changing My Reading Habits

Extending Google's Book Search Program

Google book searchGoogle's Book Search program isn't exactly new but how many times have you used it?  When I'm searching for something I usually just start with Google's default web search.  If I'm looking for a book (or the contents of a book), well, I go to a bookseller's site.

Although it's hard to beat an in-person "flip test" with a book, Amazon's Search Inside the Book feature offers perhaps the best online alternative. But that's just one vendor and I don't believe Amazon has opened it up as a service to other websites.  As of yesterday, Google is doing just that with their Book Search program -- here's the official announcement.

Whether or not this is significant depends on a couple of things including who adopts it and how flexible Google will be with the feature set.  The announcement already talks about a number of websites that have either already implemented this service or plan to shortly.  That's great news as it should enable each of those retailers to offer a Search Inside service like the one Amazon has enjoyed for many years now.

I'm more interested to see what non-retailers will do with this opportunity, including publishers.  If this becomes a truly open system it could lend itself to all sorts of interesting implementations, beyond simple limited search access to 20% of the book.  For example, what if publishers could create a subscription service that provides access to 100% of the book?  That's where flexibility comes into play.  As more websites implement this service Google will receive more requests to enhancement it.

In short, I love the idea and I'm anxious to see if it evolves into something much larger.


Elizabeth House

The new Goggle Book Search feature will be a great benefit to online book sales. Retailers and publishers, all, can now offer the customer the ability to browse through a book before making a buying decision, and that is good for business. The notion of publishers offering subscriptions to view 100 percent of books, while problematic in terms of effects on author earnings and control of intellectual property, may also result in increasing book sales. Publishers should plan to take advantage of these new services.

Jeff Barry

I think there could be some exciting possibilities. As a former academic librarian, I think about scholarly publishers. There are a lot of people (without access to a research library) who would like to read some of those more obscure titles but will not be buying the books since those are usually priced very high for those large budgets of academic libraries. Yet, those readers might gladly pay for online access to the material.

Scholarly publishing and libraries have long ignored readers unaffiliated with academic institutions but there's a market there.

Atilla Vekony

Google Book Search is working on an "online access" feature where publishers will be able to let Google Book Search visitors access 100% of the book online for a fee. For example, when you've browsed the inside of a book in Google Book Search, you can (1) click through to one of the online bookstores to buy the book from a retailer, or (2) pay a lower price to be able to access all of the pages through Google Book Search on demand.

Publishers can already set online access prices for their books on Google, although Google hasn't turned this on yet for the public.

Additionally, Microsoft, which closed its online book search program earlier this year, hinted that they would make this technology available to publishers.

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