Book Scanning Brings Attention To Commercially Neglected Works

from the not-that-the-publishers-will-care dept

Since Google first started scanning books, it’s been clear that some of the controversy stems from publishers and authors not understanding the project, and not seeing how they would benefit from it. A new study has quantified what many people could intuit, that book-search engines bring attention to obscure titles that otherwise see little commercial activity. In fact, Google Book Search results point to unpopular books almost as often as they do popular ones. It stands to reason that titles at the lower end of the tail, which have almost no sales volume, will benefit from discovery via search. In fact in Chris Anderson’s now-classic article from Wired on the long tail, he starts off with an example of a book that became a hit a decade after its release, once readers discovered it. They found it via Amazon reviews, but the principle is the same — without the ability to discover old titles, there’s no hope for the publishers to ever monetize these assets. Then again, it’s likely that a utilitarian case for book scanning will fall on deaf ears at the publishing houses. Just as the newspapers still don’t realize that more website traffic is a good thing, when coming from Google, the publishers won’t see the increased sales as a worthwhile tradeoff for losing control over some aspect of distribution. That’s too bad; books have a bright and interesting future and it’d be a shame if the publishers missed out.

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Comments on “Book Scanning Brings Attention To Commercially Neglected Works”

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Reader says:

A Question

You link to O’Reilly’s study pointing out the benefits of these books being digitally available. Then you take “publishers” to task for not participating in book scanning programs.

Clearly, many publishers have participated or the data wouldn’t be available. But oddly, O’Reilly books don’t seem to be available in Amazon’s book scan program.

So which color hat is O’Reilly wearing? The white hat for pressing for publishers to open their books to be scanned by other companies, or the black hat for (apparently) opting out of at least one of those programs?

JerseyRich says:

It’s unfortunate that the humongous potential on book scanning is misunderstood and unappreciated.

The only problem I see with it is that books are not profitable in small volumes, so increased sales of some obscure titles does not turn on the publishing industry.

BUT, if they were smart, they would create PDF versions of low-volume sellers and sale them online. Google would even provide the link!

Then, instead of having to print a few copies, they could catalog it online.

Is that a new revenue stream I hear??????????

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