Want 'War and Peace' Online? How About 20 Pages at a Time?
By EDWARD WYATT
Published: November 4, 2005
In a race to become the iTunes of the publishing world, Amazon.com and Google are both developing systems to allow consumers to purchase online access to any page, section or chapter of a book. These programs would combine their already available systems of searching books online with a commercial component that could revolutionize the way that people read books.
The idea is to do for books what Apple has done for music, allowing readers to buy and download parts of individual books for their own use through their computers rather than trek to a store or receive them by mail. Consumers could purchase a single recipe from a cookbook, for example, or a chapter on rebuilding a car engine from a repair manual.
The initiatives are already setting off a tug of war among publishers and the potential vendors over who will do business with whom and how to split the proceeds. Random House, the biggest American publisher, proposed a micropayment model yesterday in which readers would be charged about 5 cents a page, with 4 cents of that going to the publisher to be shared with the author. The fact that Random House has already developed such a model indicates that it supports the concept, and that other publishers are likely to follow.
The proposals could also become bargaining chips in current lawsuits against Google by trade groups representing publishers and authors. These groups have charged that Google is violating copyrights by making digital copies of books from libraries for use in its book-related search engine. But if those copies of older books on library shelves that have long been absent from bookstores started to produce revenue for publishers and authors, the trade groups might drop some of their objections.