I commented last time I posted on Amazon’s “Search the Book” feature, noting that they are in effect making some books’ entire content freely available, if you’re willing to do the work to get it.
I closed with saying:
Frankly, the more I think about it, the more surprised I am that any publishers went along with this.
It turns out that it’s the author’s guild who’s really upset about this. They claim that most contracts do not give the right to publishers to participate in this type of program without the author’s consent, and authors were not consulted. Their website links a follow-up article in which they note that printing has been disabled on the page images, thus mitigaging some of the problem. Though, just last night I wanted an image from a book (for personal use) and had left the book elsewhere, so I pulled up the page using Amazon’s new feature, did a screen capture, and was able to print out the page just fine. They also note, as many have, the discentive to use this for reference books as compared to novels.
One thing that’s confusing me. The first article from the Author’s Guild says that Amazon “sets a limit that permits a user to see no more than about 20% of a particular work”. I tested, and you can only view “Inside the Book” page images if you sign in as a registered user. But are they really tracking this information on their own servers? Or are they just using cookies and hoping we don’t clear our cache?
A search on “whale” brought me to the 168-page novel Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, with 81 references to the word “whale”. After viewing about 28 pages of the book, I was told that I reached “the monthly page-view limit” for the book. Deleting my cookies and logging back in didn’t help. So they’re obviously doing something of the sort. Seems like it could get expensive.
As a final note, whatever my intuition about long-term usefulness of the service, particularly for non-fiction, after their first week of offering the tool, Amazon showed a 9% increase of sales of searchable books compared to those not participating.