Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Brave New World of Book Buying

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Brave New World of Book Buying

Article excerpt

"Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other ... For every thing that is given, something is taken," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1841 essay "Self-Reliance."

The newest application of this old wisdom involves the world of book buying., the Web's best e-commerce site, is also the world's largest bookseller, and it has recently introduced new features that make book buying even more enjoyable, convenient and economical. But these same features have some book authors reaching for their poisoned pens. for some time has done a great job of providing context about a book to help you make a buying decision. Unlike in a bookstore, with you can quickly search for books by title, author and subject, and with any books that look interesting, you can read reviews by professional book reviewers and fellow readers. With many books, you can also browse through a limited number of pages to see if the author's writing style fits your expectations.

With some books, you can now also "Search Inside the Book." You type in a search term, and finds books containing the term and lets you access any page containing it plus the two preceding and the two following pages. This is what has caused the controversy.

The Authors Guild, an advocacy group for writers, tested's "Search Inside the Book" feature and discovered you could copy and print out more than 100 consecutive pages from a single book, though doing so was time-consuming. has since disabled the print capability, but you can still, without much technical expertise, capture the screen and print it out otherwise.

What would stop you--besides your conscience--from collecting cooking recipes or travel suggestions this way, without having to buy the book?

"Most reference books (are) at clear risk in such a database," said the Authors Guild in an e-mail message to members. For this reason, not all book publishers participate in the program. defends "Search Inside the Book" by pointing to its utility. "We believe that the more information you give a customer about the products they're interested in buying, the more of those products they actually buy," said Jani Baker, director of product public relations, in a telephone interview. In the first five days of the "Search Inside the Book" program, sales of books that participated were 9 percent higher than sales of non-participating books, she said. …

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