Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Amazon's Book Search Hits a Snag

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the oopsie dept.

Books 299

The Importance of writes "Yesterday, Slashdot readers discussed Amazon's brand new, technically impressive and highly useful book search feature that lets users search the full text of over 120,000 books. Today, the Authors Guild is saying that the publishers don't have the right to let Amazon do this. Uh oh."

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Ohhh what (1, Insightful)

Sir Haxalot (693401) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310413)

publishers don't have the right to let Amazon do this
I can understand publishers not letting Amazon do this, but not having the right to let them do it? This is absurd...

Re:Ohhh what (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310425)

It depends on the language of their contracts with the writers. I spent quite some time looking at tech books on Amazon last night, and can't honestly say I'd be thrilled if it were possible to read 10-20 pages at a time from a technical book I'd written.

help please (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310447)

i kno that ur a good hacker and i want some1 to help me lern 2 hack. i need to hack this b*tch's hotmail acct pls do it for me and teach me how to hack ill pay u.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310529)

Re:Ohhh what (4, Informative)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310539)

Not absurd at all. The AUTHOR still owns the work. Typically, the publishing contract will cover Book, and sometimes eBook form. Open, no compensation publishing on the web is not covered. The author is entitled to compensation, and the publisher isn't entitled to say "oh that's ok, go ahead" because the book does not belong to them.

Re:Ohhh what (3, Informative)

sjvn (11568) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310699)

> Open, no compensation publishing on the web is not covered.

All dear, someone who's never been in the business. Many, probably most, book contracts say that essentially all practical rights belong to them.

Frankly, one reason why I almost never write books and stick to magazines and newspapers is not only do they pay better, but at least in that side of the biz, you know up front that your rights are bought and sold.


First Post (-1, Offtopic)

numb (241932) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310420)

Maybe i get first post this time?

odd way to read (5, Insightful)

potpie (706881) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310421)

I understand the technical reasons for this... but there is no practical reason, since it would probably be very hard to read a book this way.

Re:odd way to read (4, Interesting)

ChesireKat (601712) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310471)

True But this DOES mean that a full text version of the book is Available on the database somewhere. Which means if one person figures out how to get it, everyone has the book for free (thanks to kazaa and sharing.)
Then again, many other sites offer ebooks for a price... which means they also must have full text versions available. So, i Suppose the publishers are just protecting themselves against possible danger.

oh, and being pains in the asses :) C'mon! Its what they do best!

Re:odd way to read (4, Interesting)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310599)

...until some warez group releases a tool that scrapes Amazon's site for book pages automatically for you. Or uses such a tool to extract a recent bestseller from Amazon and releases it in a .rar file on some bittorrent site. Then it becomes much easier to read an entire book through this service. It would be pretty much just like reading a regular ebook.

The authors are right on this. A service that allows Internet access to a scanned image of an arbitrary page of any book is just begging to be misused. The service doesn't require images of the actual pages to be served. Removing this feature would allow the search to still be useful but would remove the possibility of people downloading the entire book for free.

Re:odd way to read (2, Insightful)

Cipster (623378) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310641)

Well the problem is there are many books I would just like to read a chapter of without wanting the whole thing.
For example I have Harrison's textbook of Internal Medicine. I paid well over $100 for it and I use it maybe every few weeks to look up a differential diagnosis or some reference values. I rarely read more than 2 pages at a time.
If I could find it on-line and look the stuff up you bet I wouldn't have spent the cash for it.

misunderstanding (4, Insightful)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310423)

Publishers don't have to _let_ Amazon do this. Amazon can do this without anybody's permission - they're not making content available to the public, merely letting the public find the right product to then buy. From my understanding, no content is being sold, or made available, outside of book form. Author should be shouting for friggin' JOY at this. Ugh.

Re:misunderstanding (2, Informative)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310444)

If you read the article, they bring up the examples of travel books or cookbooks. If I can just search to get info on a city I'm going to or a certain pie I want to bake, why buy the whole book?

Re:misunderstanding (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310463)

Why on earth would you go to Amazon for that info instead of Google, though?

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:misunderstanding (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310472)

If Google doesn't HAVE that info indexed (and Amazon doesn't allow search engines to index that info), then you don't have much choice.

Re:misunderstanding (1)

Angram (517383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310481)

If it's a recipe from a cookbook, it would make sense that you'd want it directly from the book, rather than finding something potentially similar from some other source.

Re:misunderstanding (1)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310503)

Why on earth would you go to Amazon for that info instead of Google, though?

Well, there are beginning to be good freely available cookbooks and travel books on the web, but right now, most of the info of that type is somehow attached to a company or local government travel office, which means it probably isn't very objective. Sure, the city of Muncie, IN will try to convince you that it's a travel Mecca, but a real travel book would tell you not to bother going.

Re:misunderstanding (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310498)

It depends on how much info of the 'hit' that Amazon displays. It's going to be a balance between showing 'just enough' for the searcher to verify that's the right book, but not so much that valuable content is being given away. If it's handled correctly, this can be a huge boon to everyone, authors included. If authors want to bitch about something, they should be bugging their publishers to make their back catalogs available in electronic, print-on-demand format, so that when someone *does* want to buy their book, they can, no matter what.

The ultimate goal would be to have electronic (and thus print-on-demand if you want) access to every published work, translated on the fly into any language you want. Print on demand could allow you to choose binding options, paper quality, paper dimensions, font & font size, etc. Anything that works toward this goal is a Good Thing(tm).

Re:misunderstanding (1)

toothfish (596936) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310624)

choose binding options, paper quality, paper dimensions, font & font size
I'm not sure that's a good idea. Book designers make decisions about a lot of that stuff, and selecting a typeface for a printed work ought to "honor and elucidate" (Bringhurst) the work. If you set the Diary of Anne Frank in blackletter type, not only have you made it nearly illegible but have also violated the spirit of the work (depending on the specific blackletter-- but you get the idea). Unless it's a postmodern exercise, in which case never mind.

Which is not to say that there aren't poorly designed books, but most people aren't qualified to set type-- especially body copy.

Not to mention that it would screw up either the page numbering, or formatting, or both.

Re:misunderstanding (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310673)

Oh please.

If the content is 'formmated' correctly (paragraphs, tabs, & whatnot), then changing the font and/or size isn't going to do anything to damage the 'spirit' of the work. If someone happens to prefer a sans serif type to a serif one, and it helps them actually READ the work in question, that's only to the better. Yes, people can and will do stupid things with fonts - but then that would be their problem, would it not? Personal responsibility.

As far as messing up the page numbering, so what? Many books are printed in hardback, trade paperback, paperback, abridged, & audio cassette form, many now come with a CD-ROM of the full text of the book included in multiple format (PDF, text, Word .DOC, HTML), and the page numbers are certainly going to differ between many or most of them.

The text is the thang. Deal.

Content (2, Interesting)

Angram (517383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310465)

"Amazon can do this without anybody's permission - they're not making content available to the public..."
Exactly what do you call the text from a book? If the pages/text aren't its content, then I guess it doesn't have any. So much for literature.

"...merely letting the public find the right product to then buy"
Consider the ramifications of your statement: I should be able to make tracks from a CD available for free, so that others can determine whether they want to buy it. Whether you think that's the way it "should" be or not, it's clearly not legal.

"From my understanding, no content is being sold, or made available, outside of book form."
Once again, I ask you what the content of a book is, if not the pages or text.

Re:Content (1)

civilizedINTENSITY (45686) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310530)

Actually Walmart currently does make sections of CDs available so that you can determine whether you want to buy the product. As far as "literature" and "content" said it first, not me.

Re:Content (1)

Angram (517383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310543)

Many major music stores make whole CDs available in-store, but I think the record companies authorize those kinds of things.

Re:Content (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310535)

My understanding is they're not making the content 'available', only 'searchable'. You type in the text you're looking for, it shows you what books they have (scanned & OCR'd) that match the hits. How much OF that matching text they display I dunno - my understanding is they're NOT showing the entire text of the books. Is this incorrect?

Re:Content (4, Insightful)

Angram (517383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310567)

They show +/- 2 pages from the one the searched phase is on (total of 5 pages). However, a cake recipe isn't going to be more than that (in fact, many are only a half-page in big cookbooks). Ditto for most reference materials, which unlike novels don't depend on a storyline, but rather looking up small chunks of info.

Re:Content (2, Insightful)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310603)

Ah, yeah, that's way too much content to be displaying, then. If they merely cut back the amount of text displayed to, say, a paragraph or less, then I think everything would be hunky-dory.

Or, they could change the amount of text displayed based on the type of content. Less for a cookbook or reference book, and more for a novel. This is the first time anyone's done this, so hopefully a little finetuning will be forthcoming. Demonizing has historically had NO effect on their behaviour, so hopefully a more intelligent & reasoned approach will work.

Certainly, bitching about it on Slashdot won't do a damned thing.

Re:Content (3, Interesting)

DoctorPhish (626559) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310584)

They show the page the hit was on, and 2 pages on either side of it. No more than 20% of a book can be viewed in a month. The Guild is arguing that for cookbooks and travel books, the information you are searching for is concentrated enough that no one would ever have to purchase those books. Their other example is college students banding together to print out entire volumes. Valid concerns, I'd say.

Re:Content (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310604)

RTFA (or TRY the Amazon search feature) and you will see that they DO let you see full pages from the books.

Re:misunderstanding (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310587)

This is not about copyright.

If you read the article, you'll see that this is about contracts with publishers that state that the books in question cannot be placed in an electronic database. Since it is likely that Amazon got this database from the publishers, this is the problem.

Amazon could legally scan all the books in themselves and make the same search available under fair use. The issue here is whether the authors' contracts with the publishers give those publishers the right to distribute their works in a database.

It's a contract issue not a copyrhight issue.

Re:misunderstanding (1)

mutewinter (688449) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310627)

Don't you understand that they should just jump to conclusions about technology they don't understand?

Re:misunderstanding (2, Interesting)

AJWM (19027) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310630)

From my understanding, no content is being sold, or made available, outside of book form.

Then your understanding is incorrect. Amazon makes available the page where the search hit is found, plus the previous and subsequent two pages each, for a total of five pages per hit. In many cases (examples are given as cookbooks and travel books) this may be all the viewer cares about.

In other cases, it doesn't take much ingenuity to figure a way to get the whole book. (The Guild did 100-page sections, as proof.)

No wonder authors are annoyed.

Re:misunderstanding (1)

sjvn (11568) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310639)

> no content is being sold, or made available, outside of book form.

Gosh, look at it first. You can indeed browse books' pages just as if you had it on your lap and not just your laptop.

Amazon says there's a limit to the number of pages you can do this with, but they give no details and I haven't found a limit yet.



Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310429)


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310520)

Whereas Windows users had theirs repossessed by Bill.

Not have the right? (2, Insightful)

ChesireKat (601712) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310433)

How can Amazon not have the right to do this? I mean, EBSCOhost has the right to let you search MILLIONS of articles, books, and etc. What makes them any different than Aamazon?

Makes sense to me.... (3, Interesting)

wrinkledshirt (228541) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310438)

You want to search a book's text? That means the developers and the server would need to have the digital text of the book to parse for the engine.

That's one security fuckup away from free ebooks for everybody.

Re:Makes sense to me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310453)

A quick glance at P2P networks reveals THAT genie is long since out of the bottle.

Re:Makes sense to me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310586)

What you have to remember is that although ebooks are sold, it's in a totally secure format, so there's no hope of them showing up on P2P. *cough* openclit *cough*

Re:Makes sense to me.... (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310474)

That's one security fuckup away from free ebooks for everybody.

No, it's just a list of the words in the book. They're not going to have all of the thousands of instances of "a" and "the" in each book indexed - they'll index a word once per book.

Nobody said the words were in order of appearance, either.

Not true for "Search Inside the Book" feature. (1)

wrinkledshirt (228541) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310519)

From the website:

Books participating in our Search Inside the Book feature with "rocket experiments" in their text will show an excerpt with your search term highlighted.

Okay, that means that any publishing company leary about having a txt version of the book leaked on the internet can at least opt out of this feature.

Still, it seems to me that the database server is going to have access to a lot of information about the books' texts. And the more useful the engine aspires to be, the more likely it is that it won't want to limit itself to simple word lists. Take into consideration how useful google's excerpts are in determining what sort of page you're looking for.

Re:Makes sense to me.... (1)

cornjones (33009) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310714)

As opposed to right now when it is one security fuckup away from free physical books for everybody.

O'Reilly Safari? (1)

grahammm (9083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310443)

If publishers do not have the right to allow Amazon to do this, what about O'Reilly's Safari? This allows subscribers to search the text in all the books in the system not just those on the user's bookshelf.

Re:O'Reilly Safari? (2, Informative)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310560)

O'Reilly owns those works, and can do what they like with them. Authors of O'Reilly books are either employees of O'Reilly, or contracted to write for them.

Authors who do not work for their publishers retain all ownership of their own works (unless they're foolish enough to sign them away, which most are'nt) Publishing a book in one form does not give you the right to distribute it in another form, without a seperate agreement with the owner of the work.

Re:O'Reilly Safari? (1)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310589)

Additionally, IIRC, Safari is a subscription (paid) service, and royalties can be paid to authors from the subscription. Somewhat different than a free search engine, I think.

Interesting. (4, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310448)

When I first read this, I thought, why on earth wouldn't they want this? Wouldn't it help sales?

After reading the article, it seems they have a point. Novels wouldn't really be hurt by it (and may actually be helped), but think about reference books and other things. All one would have to do is search for what they're looking for, then pull it right out of the result they're given. Although why they would go to Amazon instead of Google to find that information is beyond me.

Still, I'm not one to condone killing a technology just because it CAN be used for something bad. Plus, it looks like Amazon will take a book off the list if the author insists, so there really isn't too much of a problem here.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:Interesting. (1)

Angram (517383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310494)

Should this really be opt-out, though? I would think not. An author shouldn't have to take extra steps to prevent companies from making their work freely available. If that were the case, then other websites could keep doing it, and the authors would have to track them down one-at-a-time and hope to catch them all. I think it would need to be an opt-in system to prevent such absurdity.

Re:Interesting. (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310602)

I think the issue is that the publishers claim they have the right to allow Amazon to do this, and that it has nothing to do with the actual author's wishes. If they do actually have that right, then Amazon is doing them quite a service by even offering an opt-out.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Exactly (1)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310507)

How many novels have you read that you liked, and would purchase to read again if only you could remember what the title was, and all you know are a few choice quotes or unique scenes?

OTOH, the article raises a valuable point about books like cookbooks, which are just collections of small bits of information, and the simple act of returning a page obviates the need to buy the book in the first place.

It seems to me the authors, publishers, and vendors need to coordinate their efforts and produce satisfactory solutions; for instance, allowing cookbooks to be searched for things like ingredients or recipe names but only returning the recipe names and the books that have them.

Because google *DOSN'T HAVE EVERYTHING* (1)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310511)

lthough why they would go to Amazon instead of Google to find that information is beyond me.

The amount of usefull information in the world available to people on the internet, compared to whats available though, say, inter-library loan is actualy pretty small. Unless you're talking about a subject like Computer Sciance, or programming.

I mean, try to find a lot of relavent information on the history of Taiwanese Americans (for example). I had to actualy get up off my ass and to the library in order to write a paper [] about 'em.

Anything else non-technical, or, god forbid, written before the 90's is more in books then it is online.

Simple solution: Make writer opt in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310532)

If the writer thinks this would help sales then let them opt in. As the article points out there are a lot of good reasons to not allow this.

Re:Interesting. (2, Insightful)

clifyt (11768) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310559)

"Although why they would go to Amazon instead of Google to find that information is beyond me."

Because as noted in Wired, accurate reference material is just not as prevelant on the internet as it is in hard cold paper...something Amazon and others would like to eventually see changed.

Kind of like a... library? (4, Insightful)

jpsowin (325530) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310632)

Sounds kinda like what you use your reference section at the library for. What's wrong with getting a quick quote from a book without buying it? I buy most of the books I use on a consistant basis, but a Ph. D. student is not going to buy every article and monograph they have to research to get a quote from. Just a thought. My point is that libraries are not "bad" and they do the same thing, except you actually have to pick up the book.

Personally, I think this full text search is a great feature, and will only help with sales.

I knew it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310452)

Heh, just as I suspected.. I knew some idiots like them would complain sooner or later... or in two days.

No problem.. with the new amazon patent the... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310466)

No problem. As Amazon has a patent about writing...
Any sytem that writes/puts symbols in an order that can be decoded to a language (se other amazon patent about language) falls under this patent.
This means that unauthorized works that uses this method called "spelling" is amazon's IP.
So amozon can do as they like....Authors have no rights to their work.. only amazon.

Oops... this post seems to be amazon's IP...

Re:No problem.. with the new amazon patent the... (0, Redundant)

MoronGames (632186) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310565)

I believe SCO is in infringement of Amazon's IP.

CDs all over again (4, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310468)

Remember when CDs were in their own tornado in the mid 1980's and artists sued the labels saying the labels didn't have the right to republish? Artists of past recordings had to be bought off, and new contracts were ... less ambiguous. I expect the same thing to happen with the online book searching.

Dang and I thought I could read whole books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310473)

by searching *, and the "search" mechnanism would dump the whole book, damn you Author's Guild!!!

Uh-oh for Amazon (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310478)

This could go either ways

For Amazon: They "purchase" the books. Fair use allows cutting snippets out and showing people. They just built a search engine out of snippets.

Against Amazon: They do not have the authorization to give out whole books, whether in snippets or not. Fair use does not allow complete articles of published material

My opinion: I really dont know. I'd prefer more freedom when it comes to published material, but it's a fair request/statement the authors guild says. It's not like they demand you read the books/magazines with 499$ book "translators", and books are reasonablly priced. Combine that with really big and good used book sellers.

Re:Uh-oh for Amazon (1)

civilizedINTENSITY (45686) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310550)

Fair use does allow professors to have chapters of books and magazine articles reproduced for distribution to their students, however.

Re:Uh-oh for Amazon (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310693)

Too true..

Fair use also prevents professors from photocopying the whole book/magazine for class use.

Considering how poorly done the law meaning of "fair use" is, it's worthless to give any credance to. Fair use is only fair after a couple million spent in the law coffers.

Re:Uh-oh for Amazon (1)

mitchkeller (208117) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310726)

False. Fair use allows an individual to make one copy of part of a book or journal or magazine for their own "fair use". If an instructor wishes to distribute an entire chapter or article to the entire class, royalties are due to the author and/or publisher. Yeah, it seems like a loophole, but there's a difference between putting a book on reserve and allowing students to photocopy the relevant chapter and handing out 30 copies to an entire class.

Ease of extraction is too high? (2, Insightful)

mnmlst (599134) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310486)

Other books at especially high risk include those that sell to the student (particularly college student) market as secondary reading. A student could easily grab the relevant chapter or two out of a book without paying for it.

This whole thing just ain't right, as of yet. If you read the article, you can see that on the one hand, people have figured out how to get 108 pages out of a bestseller (that's unfair to the authors and publishers), and on the other hand, those same authors and publishers are expecting students to purchase entire books just to get the one or two chapters their teacher has directed them to read. Like the new music services, there should be a legal, reasonably priced (oh, boy) way to obtain those two chapters rather than having to purchase the entire book. As for the 108 pages, I am guessing they pulled that out of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, yet another doorstop from this prolific author. As someone who has done a fair amount of writing and someone who has done a LOT of reading, I am sympathetic to both sides in this one. Looks to me like Amazon needs to try again.

Re:Ease of extraction is too high? (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310568)

"Other books at especially high risk include those that sell to the student (particularly college student) market as secondary reading. A student could easily grab the relevant chapter or two out of a book without paying for it."

Or, of course, a college student could go to their university's library, where (*GASP!*) the textbook is probably on reserve. Oh horror of horrors!

Understandable, sometimes (1)

freidog (706941) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310490)

books with short, simple sections would be a particular problem. A book of Poetry, or cookbook (as mentioned by article), or even technical documentation, if i only need documentation on a small part(s) of a machine, even code samples would be left freely availible by this feature. But for the vast majority of reading (ie full books), it is nothing more than a nice feature for smaller title to be in the public's eye so to speak.

Re:Understandable, sometimes (1) (450073) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310618)

even code samples would be left freely availible by this feature.

Tomorrow on Slashdot:

SCO sues Amazon for leaking their code...

Re:Understandable, sometimes (1)

SmackCrackandPot (641205) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310691)

A book of Poetry, or cookbook (as mentioned by article), or even technical documentation, if i only need documentation on a small part(s) of a machine, even code samples would be left freely availible by this feature

Nearly all of the cookbooks and many of the reference books that I have seen, have the advantage of having glossy color plates. These usually turn out looking awful using a monochrome laser printer. As another comment points out, the cost of using such a system would probably cost more in toner.

Re:Understandable, sometimes (1)

damiam (409504) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310728)

Not everyone reads cookbooks for the pictures.

Have I got news for the Authors... (4, Interesting)

jwiegley (520444) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310493)

The author's guild may *think* the publishers don't have the right to do this but...

As far as publishers are concerned they think they are God.

Here's how the publishing world works: Publishers don't actually create anything. Due to today's technology they don't even provide a needed service. But publishers think they own, and created, every piece of thought in the world and that without them we would all be in the dark ages still. They also put on a good show pretending that they are out to protect the rights and income of the material's real creators.

But its all bullsh*t. Just look at our favorite publishers the RIAA and MPAA. What is the author's guild going to do? Litigation? Publishers have all the money and until we change society enough so that we no longer tley on third party publishers they will continue to win all of the court battles brought against them.

Re:Have I got news for the Authors... (2, Interesting)

Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310570)

Tell that to Harlan Ellison.

He's well known for suing (and winning) when his ownership rights for his work are infringed on.

Even against publishers.

As cynical as many of us are, the law still does work when things like ownership of a book are concerned.

Big Difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310609)

There's a big difference between music and book publishers. The groups the RIAA represents actually owns the copyright on the recordings; the book publishers we're talking about don't own the rights to the books they distribute. Have a look yourself if you don't believe me.

revolution (1)

oliphaunt (124016) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310505)

The article makes a good point: if my classmates and I can xerox together an entire textbook from Amazon printouts for $15 or $20 rather than each of us paying $160 for a copy of this doorstop [] , you can bet I'll be the first in line. Paper is cheap.

In 80% of the college classes I've ever had, the prof makes you buy some crappy book he wrote, not because there isn't something better out there, but because he gets royalties on every copy he sells. And $160 I don't spend on textbooks is $160 I can spend on chicks, beer, and pizza... I don't need any more justification than that.

Re:revolution (1)

Angram (517383) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310528)

So you're going to photocopy 1304 pages? I think spending the extra money (though it is an extremely high amount) might be a wiser choice. You could get a part time/temp job and spend less time just earning the cash than photocopying all of that.

Re:revolution (1)

Unregistered (584479) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310606)

Or you could just borrow a friends book and copy it now. Maybe you and your friends could go in and buy one book and copy it. The point is that you don't need amazon to do this now.

The Response From Publishers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310506)

"w3 pwn j00!!!!11!"

College Students (4, Insightful)

Trillian_1138 (221423) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310512)

Some of the examples given would seem to have little effect on the sales of books. If someone was only going to print out a specific recipe in a cookbook, or a couple of pages in a guidebook, they probably weren't amazingly inclined to get the book anyway.

But near the end of the email Authors Guild rep says, " A student could easily grab the relevant chapter or two out of a book without paying for it. Students certainly have the time and most likely the inclination to do so, and, with the help of some willing colleagues, could print out the entire texts of books in the program."

As a college student, especially in light of the []
recent NYT article on textbooks being found half-price or less overseas, it's not unreasonable to think a group of students might get together and pay $15 or $20 to print a couple hundred pages of textbook in the library.

And if someone wrote some nefarious program to log into Amazon as multiple fake accounts to access an entire textbook and download it, everyone would use it. I can easily see textbook-printing rings, with get-togethers at the library to print and distribute free books. Hell, I'd be the first one in line. Paying $500 for a semester of books is rediculous.

So, while I think the reaction of the Authors Guild is a little bit overboard, the email does rasie some valid points.

The email also mentions, in passing, that, "[m]ost fiction titles are not likely to be greatly threatened." It would seem then, that maybe the type of book shold control how many pages you can access. For textbooks or cookbooks or guidebooks or the other topics the Authors Guild fears will be threatened, maybe a compromise could be reached so that only one or two consecutive pages could be accessed. Then, for fiction or books where it is less likely a user would only want a very small portion of the book (and be willing to use Amazon to avoid buying it), more could be accessed.

This would seem to both help address the concerns raised in the email, and allow Amazon to offer this service.


Re:College Students (1)

JayBlalock (635935) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310616)

But, do you honestly think the number of people who would go to such lengths to get a free book would outnumber those who buy a book because they've verified it contains the information they want? It's not like in your scenario, the publishers are losing hundreds in book sales. That same group of students would, logically, band together and buy ONE book to share otherwise. The authors are being extremely short-sighted here. They might lose sales in a few instances, but the overall effect should be increased sales. Just think about it. Amazon is a bookSTORE. Not a library. Why would they go to what had to be enormous cost to implement a system like this if they didn't believe it to hold high potential for very significant sales boosts?

What I want to know is... (1)

anakuran (594763) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310516) the hell do you turn it off!!! I did a search for "Dark Sword" and got over 32,000 results :(

Attempt to avoid being busted for Plagiarism? (5, Interesting)

SilentMajority (674573) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310538)

Imagine....thousands of authors being busted for plagiarism because of Amazon's search feature.

What a nightmare it must be for those that built up lucrative careers and solid reputations on the backs of others--they're hoping they can hide behind the lawyers.

Re:Attempt to avoid being busted for Plagiarism? (2, Insightful)

sjvn (11568) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310658)

Please! Writers of non-fiction never have lucative careers (darn it!) and our fame is, shall we say, small.

Plagiarism is always a problem. Amazon, like the Web and Google before it, makes it easier to steal rather than harder.


Electronic equivalent to browsing in a bookstore? (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310542)

Seems to me that this is the electronic equivalent of standing in the aisle at Borders and reading through a book. I agree with previous commetns that if somebody is looking for a particular bit of info, they will most likely search via Google or Yahoo. If they search on Amazon, I'd bet that there is a good chance that they are browsing for the book in order to purchase it.

As far as the comment about college students getting textbooks this way: guess what? If the professor knows it will get light use, chances are that the prof. will put the book on reserve in the library and the copiers will get a workout when the material is referenced.

Same point is for any book, really. If it can be found in your public library, the pertinent parts can be copied. I have yet to see a public library that didn't have a bank of copy machines.

Corporations (*AA, book publishers, authors, etc) need to take ADVANTAGE of the Electronic Age, not fight it. Money redirected from litigation towards innovation (products) and content (music, books) would make us all better.

Re:Electronic equivalent to browsing in a bookstor (0)

NotoriousBob (700016) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310706)

As a matter of fact, my University charges me fee, which gives me the right to photocopy anything in the library. Makes it legal and has whole array of academic books, even course textbooks.

Re:Electronic equivalent to browsing in a bookstor (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310723)

The differnce is that when you browse at the store you can't bring the bits you browsed home with you. You either have to buy the book or put it back.

Sure, you've read it, but your memory is the only "copy" you retain.

It's a sticky wicket really, with no clear answer in the traditional way of looking at these things. Book publishers sell books. Authors sell the contents of the book.

In the world of the printing press these two points of view coincide. In the digital world they do not always, as we see.

Still, for the most part, if I were inclined to copy a book I probably wouldn't use this feature of Amazon. Too troublesome. I'd take the book out of the library and scan the sucker.

My understanding from other posts is that many do this already.


Just when we thought e-Books were dead... (4, Insightful)

cyranoVR (518628) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310569)

From the article:
When we learned of the program, we thought that it would be impossible to read more than 5 consecutive pages from a book in the program. It turns out that it's quite simple (though a bit inconvenient) to look at 100 or more consecutive pages from a single lengthy book. We've even printed out 108 consecutive pages from a bestselling book. It's not something one would care to do frequently, but it can be done.

The time is really funny, because Slashdot (and many major news outlets) were reporting the demise of the e-book not a few weeks ago. Now, we have new e-books in the form of Amazon's text search.

I used to work for a start-up publishing company that morphed into an internet company. I happened to be the marketing director in charge of print book sales. One day, the CEO decided that it would be a great idea to offer the full text of all our books online for free! Since our target market was largely cash-starved students, this move worried me greatly. Obviously, our sales were goin to drop off tremendously (maybe to zero?).

I discussed my concerns with the CEO. He made a very interesting point: For someone to print out the entire 200 - 500 pages of one of our titles would cost more in toner, paper and time than the $35 the customer would otherwise pay. This seemed to make sense at the time, but in retrospect it is kinda BS because most printers have double-sided multi-page-on-one-sheet capabilities that collapse toner/paper costs.

In the end, we didn't see sales drop off that much. Customers still wanted to order old-fashioned books. Most didn't have the time/patience to print out the books from the internet, didn't have the technical knowledge to do so (hard to believe, but we're talking about MBAs here), or (most likely) it didn't even occur to them.

People who were likely to print out the whole books online were probably also the ones borrowing copies from friends, photocopying from the library, buying used copies, etc. etc.

All, that said, I have to side with the Authors Guild. In the case I described above, our web site was relatively unknown whereas Amazon is among the top end-destinations on the Internet. Book counterfeiters are one perl-script away from obtaining the full-text of the latest Harry Potter book and printing up their own illicit copies for street sale. Yeah, there are already fake copies of bestsellers floating around out there, but now making them will become that much easier.

Comparisons to Napster and pirated music are obvious - however, unlike musicians, authors can't really draw income from "concert tours" as recording artists do. Authors live almost exclusively off royalty checks (with the exception of those lucky enough to pen books that can be cross-merchandised, made into movies, etc.)

Still, I was skeptical that Amazon's text-search system delivered the advertised goods. Getting all those publishers to hand over their text - their lifeblood - is a monumental task in itself. But I guess the system does work after all - too well, in fact!

Re:Just when we thought e-Books were dead... (1)

eggboard (315140) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310607)

You've hit all the nails on the head -- great insight on this topic. The bottom line is that for certain kinds of books, the utility is having the entire book available for easy and high-quality perusal. The hassle factor is too high to produce a samizdat electronic version.

But as the author of several computer books, I have some concerns that when it gets too easy for searchers to find a large chunk of contextual results, they won't buy the book.

This should also tell us of the marginal utility of books: I'll be realistic. If reading one page or two pages of my book fulfills a reader's need for information, then I'm overcharging them for the entire book because I need a higher-than-marginal return to do the vast amount of research necessary to write the thing.

So it's not clear cut from any angle.

Re:Just when we thought e-Books were dead... (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310683)

In the end, we didn't see sales drop off that much. Customers still wanted to order old-fashioned books.

That's exactly the idea behind Jim Baen's (Baen Books) Baen Free Library [] , where you can read online or download many of the books (SF and fantasy) he publishes.

Another example: Thinking in Java (2, Informative)

cyranoVR (518628) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310724)

Or what about Bruce Eckel's Thinking in Java [] ? (Why didn't I mention it in my original post? ah well...) For those who don't know, this book is widely regarded as the best introduction to the java programming language. And Eckel offers the book as a complete, free download on his site. Why would he do this?

In fact, in his site FAQ, Eckel addresses this question: Why do you put your books on the Web? How can you make any money that way? []

He writes: ...I was prepared to have low sales but the book brought people to my web site and to the CD Rom and seminars, so I felt it was worth the risk. Prentice Hall did a low first printing because they were worried about the online book cannibalizing sales. However, this book has done better than all the other books I've written -- for the first time I've gotten royalty checks that have made a difference.

Note that he mentions seminars - so this case represents an instance of an author that can have "concert tours" that make up for the lost revenue of a free online book.

From the article... (2, Insightful)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310594)

For example, recipes are traditionally not protected by copyright, so cookbooks would seem to receive less protection. On the other hand, the effect of the search function would possibly have a greater impact on the sale of cookbooks than other types of books.

So let me get this straight. If recipes aren't protected by copyright...and the problem lies with recipes...there is no problem. Yes?

Re:From the article... (1)

JayBlalock (635935) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310631)

No, there is a problem, but it lies with those who've chosen to attempt to build a business upon a fundamentally insecure product.

What not just modify the search (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310600)

So that it only works for books, or perhaps that items can be plugged with a "searchable" flag which can be disabled for manuals and other non-novel type literature which might lose out on such a search instead of benefitting.

Great time to announce that... (2, Insightful)

jpsowin (325530) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310610)

How long have we been hearing about Amazon implementing this? A while now. The "Authors Guild" should have said something a long time ago until waiting after Amazon already implemented the thing. Way to go.

5 words... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310620)

You're the man now dog []

Potential exploit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310621)

So what's to stop me searching for a phrase that appears on page 1, then going to page 3, finding a phrase there, and then searching for it. Can I just read the entire book, advancing 3 pages at a time?

How are they safeguarding against that kind of abuse?

I doubt most authors are so small minded. (2, Insightful)

Major Tom (164687) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310637)

I wonder if there isn't some kind of disconnect between the Authors Guild and the authors that make up the guild.

I don't think most authors want people to be forced to buy their book in order to get at a couple of isolated pages. Most authors want people to buy the book because they like the book, and think it is worth owning a copy.

True reference books are doomed, appropriately, in the age of the internet. I no longer need a paper dictionary when I can use or get access to the OED through my university. But amazon's new feature is not responsible for the fact that definitions and other discrete pieces of factual information are more easily looked up online than on paper.

Everything from cookbooks to novels, whose gestalt quality is made up of more than simply the number of discrete facts they collect, are safe. You only want one page out of my published materials? Fine, take it. Heck, I'll make you a photocopy myself. You think what I have written, as a whole, has some value? Then by all means, buy it.

To prove a point.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310642)

And for anyone who cares enough to try and get the whole book ....

1) Create 5 Amazon accounts
2) Search for your book
3) Search within that book for the author's name (typically on every page) or the book's name (typically on the other page)
4) Start at page 1, switch accounts as necessary
5) PROFIT!!!!

Bookstore Browsing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310646)

Ever spend some time in Borders and watch people have a cup of coffee while reading travel books, recipe books, medical books and others -- without buying anything. They'd probably like to "borrow" the coffee too.

One employee tells me they get people asking if there is a copier they can use!

Now they can stay home, drink their own coffee and plan their vacation -- printing out the important stuff.

Retrieve whole book via the search (1)

dagooncrn (618659) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310649)

I wonder if it's possible to get the contents of book with this cute search function (without registration). A smart perl script would do I guess. I tried and it *seems* to be possible (although pretty slow, 10 words per call at most)

unprecedented evile, aka corepirate nazis snagged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7310650)

we would like to thank the authors/permissions involved in the development of the pateNTdead eyecon0meter, without which, it would be nearly impossible to find the 'stuff that matters' buried deep within the terabytes of whoreabull ?pr? ?firm? hypenosys.

all in all, most of you are doing a remarkable job of participation in the planet/population rescue effort. there's still much/more to be done.

as you can maybe already see, yOUR survival/success is not the least bit dependent on the gadgets/minphucking devices of the greed/fear based corepirate nazis, & their phonIE ?pr? ?firm? buyassed /.puppets.

consult with/trust in yOUR creator. more breathing. vote with yOUR wallet (somtimes that means not buying anything, a notion previously unmentioned buy the greed/fear/war mongers). seek others of non-aggressive/positive behaviours/intentions. stop wasting anything/being frivolous. that's the spirit.

investigate the newclear power plan. J. Public et AL has yet to become involved in open/honest 'net communications/commerce in a meaningful way. that's mostly due to the MiSinformation suppLIEd buy phonIE ?pr? ?firm?/stock markup FraUD execrable, etc...

truth is, there's no better/more affordable/effective way that we know of, for J. to reach other J.'s &/or their respective markets.

the overbullowned greed/fear based phonIE marketeers are self eliminating by their owned greed/fear/ego based evile MiSintentions. they must deny the existence of the power that is dissolving their ability to continue their self-centered evile behaviours.

as the lights continue to come up, you'll see what we mean. meanwhile, there are plenty of challenges, not the least of which is the planet/population rescue (from the corepirate nazi/walking dead contingent) initiative.

EVERYTHING is going to change, despite the lameNT of the evile wons. you can bet your .asp on that. when the lights come up, there'll be no going back, & no where to hide.

we weren't planted here to facilitate/perpetuate the excesses of a handful of Godless felons. you already know that? yOUR ONLY purpose here is to help one another. any other pretense is totally false.

pay attention (to yOUR environment, for example). that's quite affordable, & leads to insights on preserving life as it should/could/will be again. everything's ALL about yOUR motives.

take care, we're here for you.

why does the AG bring up academics? (2, Interesting)

Major Tom (164687) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310701)

Most academics chafe at the fact that the publishers maintain such a stranglehold on the content they publish. Trust me, it pisses of Professor X that others who would like to include an article or chapter of his in a course packet have to pay outrageous licensing fees. (This isn't only because he doesn't see a dime from those fees, but also because he believes the free exchange of ideas is crucial to progress--one of the reasons he is publishing in the first place.)

So if amazon's service allows students to get isolated chapters or articles, without paying for them, it will be a boon for academic authors and a setback from academic publishers. Why is it the publishers who are supporting amazon's full text search and the Authors Guild that is crying foul?

The obvious answer is that the AG does not represent academic authors. The real question, then, is: why does the email from AG specifically mention college students and their dark desire to get single chapters without having to pay through the nose for them?

Far it be from Amazon (1)

Hangtime (19526) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310708)

to provide a wonderful and immensely valuable tool when it "MIGHT" with a "HIGH DEGREE" of time, effort, and money be undermined. Lord knows someone couldn't go to a "UNIVERSITY LIBRARY" and do the same thing.


How is that different then browsing in a bookstore (0)

precogpunk (448371) | more than 10 years ago | (#7310722)

I understand the concern if people start stealing the whole book but amazon can easily put more constraints on the search. One was would allow an IP address to only view 5 pages of any one book with a given 24 hour period. They already do all kinds of fancy personalization, this would not be hard for them. People copy sections of books all the time, I've paged through books at the bookstore and written down travel info and recipes before. Does that hurt sales? Are they going to shut down travel/cooking web sites because they hurt sales too? This is nothing new. And ask yourself, do libraries hurt book sales? If you really like a book you'll buy it. Its easier then printing out your electronic copy (the binding and cover protect it) and you can take it more places then you e-version (on the bus, plane, train etc). Publishers need to think of new ways to sell content. Why not have a premium amazon search (you pay a little to access 1/2 million books) and you can print out small portions of your needed reference for a small ammount ($2). If it's useful people will pay.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>