Thursday, August 24, 2006

HarperCollins Offering Browse-Inside

Publishers Weekly (PW) has had two articles this month about HarperCollins' (HC) new "Browse-Inside" initiative, which went live August 3rd.

The feature, similar to Amazon's "search inside" initiative, permits readers to search the HC titles at HarperCollins started with their better-known authors, but has plans to expand the service to include all its titles.

I tested the feature by visiting the website. There's a "Browse" button in the upper left hand corner, which takes you to the genre page. From there you can Browse-Inside several selected books by clicking on "text excerpt."

PW said, "HarperCollins is also looking to offer the option on author sites, in newsletters and on booksellers' Web sites."

Readers with good memories will recall my blog of November 4, announcing Random House's (RH) intent "to work with online booksellers, search engines, entertainment portals and other appropriate vendors to offer the contents of its books to consumers for online viewing on a pay-per-page-view basis."

RH went on to say in their announcement that, while readers are demanding more digital access, publishers and authors must be compensated appropriately. Free sample excerpts will be permitted with a 4 cents per page charge for every page after the free sample.

PW obviously remembered that announcement because Rachel Deahl, their reporter, posed the question to Erin Crum, the HC Director of Corporate Communications, asking if HC's new Browse-Inside program would also offer pay-by-page options.

Ms. Crum responded that, "at this point, it's all for marketing purposes."

Following that initial story, PW did a second story on Tuesday. The new article described a much more aggressive initiative, saying, "the developer of the technology behind HarperCollins' newly launched Browse-Inside is now offering the service broadly to all book publishers."

The company, LibreDigital announced a service called the LibreDigital Warehouse "that allows publishers to offer their catalogs and titles to online consumers for browsing while maintaining control over the display and access to content."

Does this sound like a company poised to take advantage of publishers' mistrust of Google's book scanning program? PW thought so, and Craig Miller, the general manager of LibreDigital, freely admitted it. "We saw the discussion going on between Google and publishers." Miller implied that his company will give publishers greater control and better quality than Google.

Publishers' options are expanding . . . don't forget the Open Content Alliance, that consortium of businesses, non-profits and universities, including Microsoft, who want to scan the world's libraries. See my blog of November 6th for details.

Things are heating up, and (to mix my metaphors) the landscape is filling with initiatives geared toward digitizing the contents of books.

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