Monday, October 27, 2003

Amazon's New Search Engine unveils new book search engine

SEATTLE, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- unveiled a massive new search engine Thursday called "Search Inside the Book", containing 33 million pages of a collection of 120,000 books.

Amazon's registered customers can receive specific pages by entering words or phrases into the search engine. Search Inside the Book allows users to view search results by returning images of actual pages, without the ability to download an entire book.

Wired magazine said the breakthrough creates a powerful research tool, while respecting copyright law. The magazine called the technology "one of the boldest maneuvers yet in an intense commercial competition."

The magazine said the archive is intentionally crippled. A search retrieves not text, but pictures of pages. You can find the page that responds to your query, read it on your screen, and browse a few pages backward and forward. But one cannot download, copy, or read the book from beginning to end. will limit users to fewer than a few thousand pages per month, or no more than 20 percent of any single book.


From: AuthorsGuild Staff []
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2003 5:09 PM
Subject: Amazon's New Book Database

You might have read about's "Search Inside the Book" program, launched yesterday, in which the entire texts of participating publishers' titles are available on the website. Visitors can locate titles containing search terms they choose, and then access the two pages preceding and the two pages following the page containing those terms. Amazon sets a limit that permits a user to see no more than about 20% of a particular work. The company reports that publishers consented to the placement of all 120,000+ titles in the program.

We've reviewed the contracts of major trade publishers and concluded that these publishers do not have the right to participate in this program without their authors' permission. We wrote to these publishers after we learned about the program in July. Most argued with our interpretation of their contract (no surprise there), but some have said that they would remove a work from the program if the author insisted.

Whether your works should be in the program is hard to say. This program will likely prove to be useful in promoting certain titles. Midlist and backlist books that are receiving little attention, for example, may benefit from additional exposure in searches. For other titles, the program may erode sales. Most reference books would be at clear risk in such a database. So would many (if not most) travel books and cookbooks. Most fiction titles are not likely to be greatly threatened.

When we learned of the program, we thought that it would be impossible to read more than 5 consecutive pages from a book in the program. It turns out that it's quite simple (though a bit inconvenient) to look at 100 or more consecutive pages from a single lengthy book. We've even printed out 108 consecutive pages from a bestselling book. It's not something one would care to do frequently, but it can be done. So a reader could choose to print out all the fish recipes from a cookbook in the program. Or the section on Tuscany from a travel book. We believe readers will do this,
and the perplexing question is whether the additional exposure for a title -- and the presumptive increase in sales -- offsets sales lost from those who just use the Amazon system to look up the section of a book when they need it.

Other books at especially high risk include those that sell to the student (particularly college student) market as secondary reading. A student could easily grab the relevant chapter or two out of a book without paying for it. Students certainly have the time and most likely the inclination to do so, and, with the help of some willing colleagues, could print out the entire texts of books in the program.

We'll be sending you more information about the program shortly, and we're going to be in further touch with the major publishers. If you'd like a book removed from the program and your publisher isn't cooperating, please let us know.

Copyright 2003, Authors Guild. This work may be forwarded and posted, so long as it is not edited.

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