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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Books the Next Content Commodity

Microsoft unleashed a public beta of its book search website, providing another indication that to extract the maximum value from content it must be broken apart.

The Live Search Bookssite is limited to works in the public domain or that Microsoft has gained permission to publish, so it is much less comprehensive than Google's book search.

Book publishers will be dragged by the search community into the digital distribution age as their content will be parsed, tagged, and commented on for all to enjoy. The music industry and TV networks went through the same painful process of first resisting and then embracing online distribution.

For book publishers, the ability to sell entire volumes or chapters online can greatly enhance their revenue stream, and they need to quickly develop the business models in partnership with search companies. Today much of the research that used to take place at the library, particularly when it relates to history or science, now occurs online. Instead of grabbing an encyclopedia off the shelf, we use wikipedia or a search engine to get the available "facts."

But by selling only the chapters that are relevant to a search, publisher can create a new revenue stream. Books could be sold as entire volumes for the first few months, before becoming "long tail" items that are sold bit by bit. If you want to learn about an event or syndrome, why pay $30 for the book (or more likely go to the library and use the photocopier) when you could pay $5 just for the chapter you need?

Netizens can speed the process along by tagging content that has been set free for viewing. While Amazon's search engine does a fair job at finding books based on subjects, combining the power of search engines with people-powered tagging will make it much easier to find information.

By John Gartner at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

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