Monday, December 04, 2006

Search and Browse Inside

Since its launch, Amazon’s ‘Search Inside’ function has slowly been adopted within the market and has clearly added value to the buyer experience. The buyer now has the opportunity to further qualify their selection and discover the look and feel of the book inside its jacket.
Remember not so many years ago when Amazon and others started to require jackets? Some questioned whether the retailers had the rights to scan and display jackets in order to sell the book. Today displaying jackets on the internet is the norm and even antiquarian and used books have jackets for all to view. Why were jackets so emotive at the time? The answer is simple – the vast majority of publishers and the bibliographic agencies didn’t have them. So who was going to do it and would they produce the quality desired?
When we now look at search inside what do we find? The answer is similar again, the bibliographic agents do not hold that level of rich information and the majority of publishers don’t have the capability of providing it. Is this a rights or contract issue or one about digital evolution? Some would argue it is to do with rights and contracts and sight the need to protect access and representation. This is very laudable, and poses the questions as to who provides and holds the information how it is protected and importantly how it is presented? Those publishers with digital programs and asset stores can provide the material and ensure they correctly display and represent the title. Those who do not have the digital content in a format that can be effectively repurposed, are at the mercy of others.
Digital content is fast becoming digital context and is the best and richest form of bibliographic information. This doesn’t mean that the total book needs to be made available online, but it does mean that the content needs to be digitized to enable the relevant sections available. By taking control of the digital content and what is made available the publishers ensure that they represent the work as they and the author wishes.
I was walking through Convent garden on Saturday and visited Taschen’s new store. What has this to do with search inside you may ask? Well the answer is simple – Taschen has long taken control of its content and used it to sell physical books. Visit their web site were you can turn the pages and see inside the book. Then go look at the Amazon site and look at the identical pages against the same book. As publishers of high-end art and photographic books this was an obvious step and one which now allows Taschen control what pages are displayed and provides them with a consistency of representation in the market. Importantly it is about selling physical books over the internet and not about selling digital content.
So should Amazon scan the book and load it onto their program or should publishers send to Amazon, Waterstones, WHS, etc the content they want displayed in any ‘inside’ feature? HarperCollins clearly is taking control of their digital content through their ‘Browse inside’ initiative which will give then the same flexibility as Taschen whilst others have chosen to outsource the job to others.
There is no right or wrong answer to what publishers should do but I believe doing it once and controlling its usage and repurposing across the market is better than effectively handing it over to others and doing it several times.

No comments: