I like a shortcut as much as the next guy. I previously posted about the getAbstract program that I use for book summaries -- it's a great resource and a real time-saver. A few days ago I stumbled across WikiSummaries, a completely free and community-driven alternative to paid summaries. There are only a couple of dozen summaries currently on the site, but it gives you a feel for what it could become.
As a publisher I'm particularly interested in seeing how this model develops. On the one hand, I look at getAbstract and its traditional competitors and figure they've all signed agreements with publishers to sell summaries of their books; it's a licensing deal where both parties have agreed to terms and content rights. The WikiSummaries model, on the other hand, is built without any publisher agreements.
What does that mean? If a publisher really wants to push the issue I suppose they could argue that WikiSummaries has crossed the line and is giving away the publisher-owned IP that makes up the book. Then again, where do you draw the line between the content on WikiSummaries and some of the lengthier book reviews on Amazon and elsewhere?
This is an interesting debate that will probably play out on WikiSummaries and any other similar sites. I'm curious to see how it unfolds. At the very least, you'd think the WikiSummaries folks would try to incorporate an occasional link or two to an online book seller. Someone reading the summary might find it interesting and wonder if there's even more to discover in the book itself. Why not use the Amazon affiliate program to link to the books from WikiSummaries and maybe make a buck or two for the organization? It would also be an easily implemented goodwill gesture showing that WikiSummaries is trying to encourage sales of the books.