dcsimg
RealTime IT News

Booksellers Move to Pay-Per-View

Anyone who's ever skipped parts of a book will appreciate Amazon.com's new venture: Amazon Pages.

On Thursday, the online retailer of books and just about everything else announced Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade. Amazon.com said the programs would benefit readers, authors and publishers.

Also on Thursday, Random House announced its intent to work with online booksellers, search engines, entertainment portals and other appropriate vendors to offer the contents of its books to consumers for online viewing on a pay-per-page-view basis.

"We're offering a concrete business model with which we can go forward with vendor partners to allow readers access to the contents of our books in way that satisfies readers' interest in sampling and discovery," Richard Sarnoff, president of the Random House corporate development group, told internetnews.com.

Random House will negotiate vendor agreements individually, but it presented some guidelines: "Free samples" of text to be determined by the publisher; $.04 per page paid to Random House; and suggested consumer pricing of $.99 for 20 pages.

Sarnoff said the company would share revenue with authors according to their current contracts. While contracts don't specifically cover partial online sales of content, he said there were several standard clauses that would cover such revenue.

"We've been talking to multiple vendors, and evidently, our conversations with Amazon yielded some fruit," Sarnoff said, "because they announced their own initiative on the heels of our announcement. We can now hope or expect them to be our fist vendor."

Amazon Pages will let customers pay for online access to only the amount of content they want. Built on the company's Search Inside the Book technology, Pages will let users buy access by the page, section or chapter of a book, as well as the book, in its entirety.

Amazon Upgrade will let customers "upgrade" their purchases of a physical book on Amazon.com to include complete online access.

"In collaboration with our publishing partners, we're working hard to make the world's books instantly accessible anytime and anywhere," Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, said in a statement. Amazon.com executives weren't available for comment.

Susan Spilka, director of communications for book publisher Wiley & Sons, wouldn't comment on Amazon's new services.

Reading from a prepared statement, she told internetnews.com: "In our experience, Amazon.com is a great partner, and they have a track record of launching innovative programs such as Search Inside the Book that benefit readers authors and publishers."

Amazon.com said that Search Inside the Book has grown substantially since its launch two years ago, with 50 percent of the books it sells in the program.

"We are feeling very good about Amazon Pages," said Judith Platt, director of communications and public affairs for the Association of American Publishers (AAP). "They're going about it the right way: allowing publishers on behalf of their authors to opt in. That's really what the fight is about."

The fight Platt is referring to is her organization's copyright infringement suit against Google.

The AAP filed suit in federal court, charging that the Google Library Project scanning of books in library collections is done without permission. Google says the scanning is fair use, because it only shows a snippet of text in search results. The Authors Guild filed a similar suit.

"Amazon is a valuable partner, and we link to Amazon so people can buy books they've found with Google Print," said Google spokesman Nate Tyler. "We're glad our users will have additional ways to access the books they've found using Google Print."

Google announced today that print works in the public domain will now be included in search results.

Tyler would not confirm that Google plans its own pay-per-view service, beyond saying, "Google Print is exploring new access models to help authors and publishers sell more books online, but we don't have anything to announce."

Google has applied for a patent for, among other things, a method of enabling "subscription-like access" to electronic content.

Sarnoff, a member of the AAP board, had been actively negotiation with Google about Google Print. But publishers wanted Google to let them opt in; Google insisted that they could only opt out.

While the full contents of Random House titles will be available for display, Sarnoff said that the publishing house would respect the wishes of any of its authors that wanted to opt out of the pay-per-view program.