Skip to Content

Amazon's book search

27 October 2003

As mentioned in our 28 July News Review Amazon continues to power ahead, Amazon has been working for some time now on its just-launched 'Search inside the Book' feature, which allows browsers to search within the pages of books offered on its site. You can jump to a number of pages within the book, but not view them all. This limitation has not prevented authors' organisations voicing their anxiety about the copyright situation. The Executive Director of the Authors' Guild, Paul Aiken, said: 'It is a question of whether publishers have the right to put up these works in full text form, and our view is that they don't... I think authors have to look at it on a case-by-case basis whether this type of marketing and promotion for their book makes sense or not.'

So far 190 US publishers have come on board, a relatively small number which still does not include all the big firms. Publishers have said that they will withdraw books from the scheme if authors object.

Amazon's new feature opens up a vision of their future as a repository of books awaiting POD orders. Effectively they could become an electronic archive offering information about where books on a particular subject can be found, which would link in naturally to selling them. Wired's view is that; 'Amazon's scheme would never work if users really wanted their books in digital form. The magic of the archive lies in the assumption that physical books are irreplaceable.' But it is understandable that publishers and authors should be nervous about a scheme which could in time lead to the giant of Internet book retailing becoming also the repository of a vast amount of searchable data about where information can be found in books.

In the meantime the stock market approves of Amazon's ambition to transform itself into a major online retailer, selling not just books and CDs, but also everything from kitchen equipment to golf balls. One analyst commented that 'This is a company built on faith in the future', but with the share price having risen from $5.97 two years ago to almost $60 today, there's little doubt that the market shares Amazon's own optimism about that future.