Should You Be Able To Search A Book Without Buying It?

from the why-not? dept

With all the hubbub over Google’s effort to make books searchable, Amazon’s effort to sell books by the page hasn’t received that much attention. In an opinion piece at, law professor Randal Picker is discussing how Amazon’s effort could change the playing field for book sellers, but the reasoning raises some questions. Picker seems to think that the only way you’ll be able to search a book on Amazon is once you’ve bought the physical copy — and then they’ll grant you the ability to search inside the book. Except… Amazon has already offered the ability to search inside the book for years — without buying the book. And, Google’s project is really no different than Amazon’s original one. It doesn’t seem like these efforts are designed to add anything specifically that’s new — and if the plan is really to only allow you to search books that you own, then it would mean they’re taking away features, rather than adding them. So, is Prof. Picker wrong or is Amazon really looking to take away a feature they’ve offered for years? About the only thing that I can figure is that the new service lets you limit your searches to only specific books that you own — rather than all books. However, again, it seems likely that Google’s book search efforts should allow for something similar.

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Comments on “Should You Be Able To Search A Book Without Buying It?”

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ThoughtCancer says:

This is ridiculous

I’ve been going to book stores now for the better part of 25 years and looking through their goods without buying them. I look through books, and I look through magazines. Sometimes I buy the books and magazines I look through, and sometimes I don’t.
If what I’m looking for is a collection of facts, that’s what Lexis-Nexis, Brittanica, and other onpline resources are for. If I am looking for content with perspective, I go to the bookstore. If the bookstore is too expensive, I order from Amazon, as I’m sure MANY people do.
Point is, even though I browse through the inventory of bookstores (and many others do as well), I still buy books. The bookstore industry is not in danger of going under because not everone who walks into a bookstore doesn’t buy a book.
Google is providing a great service to the majority of book readers (such as myself) who browse through books before buying them. They are bringing the bookstore browsing experience to my house. If I want to buy the book I browsed on Google books, I still have to deal with a book retailer, and everyone gets paid as normal.
This is a control issue, plain and simple, under the smokescreen of copyright concerns. It’s the publishing cartel freaking out about now getting a piece of whatever action they think they’re missing by people browsing their books. This is yet another expample of what happens when strict bean counters run entire industries based on art and creativity.

Allen says:

Not again

Here we go again. Yes they run a risk of losing a few dollars here and there but think about it, how many times have you wanted to buy something but weren’t sure if it was worth it. Now there is a way to find out ahead of time and the industry is trying to prevent it. Allowing readers to read ahead of time, I think is very helpful. Most people would rather read a book then stare at a pc screen. The industry needs to get over the narrow sight of losing a few dollars and realize they stand to gain more by allowing buyers to preview before buying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Difference

Right, looking inside a book doesn’t entice you to purchase it.

That’s why the megabookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders, who have chairs among the bookshelves and practically invite you to site and read books (you haven’t bought yet) right in the store, are going out of business. . .

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