Follow up on Dismantling the Public Sphere Part 2
Amazon takes page out of iTunes book with online text sales
Reprinted for the Los Angeles Times
November 5, 2005
Amazon.com has previewed a service to sell just a few pages or
chapters of a book - allowing one of the world's oldest media to be
chopped up and customised like an album on iTunes.
Although he offered few details, the company's chief executive,
Jeff Bezos, said Amazon customers would soon be able to buy
snippets of books for as little as a few cents a page. That might
come in handy for tourists planning a trip or students assigned one
chapter in a textbook.
The service could help the internet retailer emerge as a more
publisher-friendly digital library than Google, which on Thursday
introduced free database of online books. Unlike Google, Amazon
plans to seek the blessings of the books' publishers.
Analysts said Amazon's approach, which builds on a current
feature that offers a peek into some books, expands the online
experience and prepares for a day when people are more accustomed
to reading long passages of text on the computer.
"It makes it more like browsing in a bookstore," said Edward
Weller, an analyst at Think Equity Partners, "and you don't even
have to put your clothes on."
John Sargent, the chief executive of Holtzbrinck Publishers,
said the success of Apple's iTunes Music Store gives him hope that
book publishers and authors can find an online business model that
gives them a fair share of the proceeds. "This is a brave new
world," he said.
Amazon said it would sell a digital "upgrade" to some books for
an additional fee. For example, a computer programmer who buys a
software manual would receive the book in the mail, but could also
read through the digital version from any web browser.
In contrast, Google is scanning vast numbers of books to add to
its Google Print search engine - many without permission from the
publishers. Its partners include Stanford, Harvard, the New York
Public Library and Oxford. On Thursday it opened its digital
library with thousands of books that are out of print or no longer
under copyright. Users can search for particular keywords or read
the books from start to finish. It displays only snippets of
Groups representing publishers and authors have sued Google for