Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Amazon.com's bookstore of the future: pay to preview content?

What will Amazon.com's bookstore of the future look like?
A newly granted Amazon patent hints that people may have to pay if they want to preview excerpts of a book before deciding whether to buy it. The patent, which lists Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos among its inventors, envisions a system in which consumers "pay different amounts to view portions of content from the electronic form of a work," including individual chapters, pages, even words.

The patent, titled "Method and apparatus to facilitate online purchase of works using paid electronic preview" was granted Sept. 21. The original application dates back to July 2004. Along with Jeff Bezos, the other inventors are Udi Manber, the former head of Amazon's search unit A9 (now at Google), and Colin Bryar.

According to the patent, people are often unwilling to buy a book online that they can't see first, and internet retailers have been able to address that problem by letting consumers preview excerpts, "essentially the electronic equivalent of browsing through the pages of a book or other published work in traditional brick-and-mortar stores." But, the patent adds, some people "are loath to pay for a work when they can view the work for free," and notes such a preview system costs money.

The solution? Pay-to-preview. The Amazon patent describes a system of paying to electronically preview "one or more chapters, sections, pages, paragraphs, or sentences from a work" with variable fees based on the genre or publisher, or "consumers' past viewing behavior or purchases." The patent also suggests incentives such as credits or discounts for people to view content online, and describes a "personal viewer account" to track balances.
Full story at Techflash.

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