Magazine article Online

Amazon's on the Right Page with New Online Reader

Magazine article Online

Amazon's on the Right Page with New Online Reader

Article excerpt

THE final element of Amazon's long-awaited Upgrade program quietly went live on May 18, 2006. Completely unannounced, the feature-rich Amazon Online Reader replaced the limited PDF-like display system Amazon had been using to present excerpts from books with its Look Inside and Search Inside features. Both features remain; it's only the display that has changed.

Amazon announced its Upgrade initiative last November as a two-part program that would allow users to purchase online access to any page, chapter, or section of a given book, or to the entire book. You must buy the hardcopy book from Amazon before you can access the online digital version, which is not otherwise available. Upgrading is retroactive, meaning that if a book you bought 1-2 years ago is available in digital format, you can upgrade it for a small fee, which seems to be between $1 and $5, depending on the title. You can "return" the digital version of a book only if less than 20 percent of it has been viewed.

There is still no official target date for the full rollout of Amazon Upgrade (nor have prices been formally announced), but users can take the Reader for a test drive now by reading an excerpt from any book. FAQs on Upgrade can be found by clicking on Amazon's Help button. Checking out the Online Reader will also serve to illustrate the nature of the Upgrade service.

FULL-FEATURED DIGITAL READER

The new display format is a full-featured, digital book reader that combines a number of much-needed features with menus and the ability to make purchases on the spot.

Menu items across the top allow you to zoom in and out on a page, turn to the next or previous page, or move to specific page number. In addition to searching within a book, the new Reader can search for text on a page currently displayed.

Bookmarks can be inserted, and text can be highlighted for later reference. Users will also be able to make tags and notes on pages.

Your notes, highlights, and tags will be searchable, right along with the book's text. If they wish, those who upgrade multiple books can search all the books they've bought simultaneously. (Each user's collection is stored in "Your Media Library," previously called "Your Digital Library.") Presumably, the relevant data for bookmarks, highlights, and annotations will be stored in cookies on the user's computer.

Pages can be displayed one at a time and moved through horizontally (as with the old Reader) or set up to be run in a continuous strip (as with a PDF file).

Text may be copied and printed, within limitations. The amount of text that can be copied varies from book to book, with limits set by publishers. A bibliographic reference is added to all copied or printed text.

Copying and printing, along with highlighting, tagging, annotating, and page searching, will be available only to those who have purchased an upgrade. (Note the grayed-out menus.)

If you found the initial screen to be a bit cluttered, you'll be happy to know that you can close the left panel with a single click.

Reopening the panel is also a oneclick proposition, and brings back the relevant book information, the search tool, and tabs that allow you to access a book's table of contents, index, cover, and other elements, as well as your own bookmarks and annotations. …

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