By Alexandria Sage
Amazon.com on Thursday said it would let readers buy digital pages,
chapters and entire books through two plans that present a broad
challenge to a controversial strategy of Google Inc.
Amazon pioneered the ability to search inside books on the Web, but
Internet search engine Google has attracted more attention recently
with its plan to copy contents of several libraries, drawing fire from
publishers who see it as a violation of copyright.
The Amazon Pages program, in coordination with publishers, lets users
buy Internet access to either a page, chapter or the entirety of a
book, while a second program, Amazon Upgrade, gives online access to a
work that the consumer buys in physical form for an extra fee.
"We believe that over time this could turn into a significant business
for Amazon, significant revenue stream for publishers and authors and
a helpful customer service for readers," said Chief Executive Jeff
Bezos, who said the programs would launch sometime next year.
Bezos declined to comment on Google's program.
Amazon immediately drew praise from the book industry. The president
of the Association of American Publishers, Patricia Schroeder, said
Amazon appeared to be complying with copyright laws while Google's
actions amounted to "rogue eminent domain."
"If the search engines don't respect the creators, there won't be
anything to search in the future because creators have to make a
living too," Schroeder said.
Prices for Amazon Pages would vary by publisher and potentially by
book, but most would cost a few cents per page, Bezos said. He used an
example in the Amazon Upgrade program of a book costing $20 and the
online access another $1.99.
"Ultimately for each individual book, pricing will be up to the
copyright holders," Bezos said. "The copyright holders are the ones
who get to make these decisions."
Since readers must pay to view and download books, Amazon's programs
steer clear of the controversy around Google, whose plan to scan
copyrighted material in libraries has raised the ire of publishers and
They claim the Google Print Library program, which promises to
digitize the book collections of major libraries and allow online
users to see just a few lines, will set a precedent opening the door
to anyone wanting to digitally duplicate books and deprive authors and
publishers of revenues.
Google -- whose program excludes material only from publishers who
contact it to opt out -- claims it is organizing and making accessible
the world's information and says the program will result in increased
awareness and greater sales of the scanned books.
The company unveiled on Thursday its first collection of public domain
works, mostly historical and 19th century literary titles.
Google also has a program, in cooperation with some publishers, that
is similar to Amazon's feature allowing search inside books.
Yahoo Inc. is also involved in the race over digitized content through
a consortium of companies and archives, but its program only accepts
copyrighted content from publishers who allow their books to be
Amazon's Search Inside the Book program, which launched two years ago,
allows readers a glimpse at select pages of text. Fifty percent of
Amazon's titles available in hard copy have already been scanned in
the program, Bezos said.
Bezos said that besides launching the two search programs, Amazon next
year would continue to roll out product categories in its
international sites that are currently only found in the United
Amazon shares closed up 2 percent on Nasdaq at $41.65.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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