Amazon has a patent in the works that could charge customers for viewing content online. The new patent could change Amazon’s “Search inside this book” tool, which lets customers browse specific pages of a book online before purchasing it, as you would be able to do in a store.
The patent, which was filed in 2004, and finally issued last week, includes “a method and system …to facilitate variable pricing for electronically viewing content online. Consumers pay different amounts to view portions of electronically viewable content obtained from a tangible work, where the amount paid is based on a characteristic of the work (e.g., the genre or publisher), the consumer’s past viewing behavior or purchases, including the portions of content (e.g., the number of pages or chapters) previously viewed from the same or other work, or the number or amount of purchases made of other works or products, or the aggregated viewing behavior or purchases of a number of consumers.”
Book journalist Sarah Weinman points out that this might not be in Amazon’s interest. She writes: “Why mess with what seems to be a good thing? Even in the introduction to the patent filing, Amazon says that customers unhappy with a particular purchase may find returning it ‘oftentimes a time-consuming process,’ and notes that one way to avoid such frustration is to allow potential buyers to preview items for free, “essentially the electronic equivalent of browsing through the pages of a book or other published work in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.’”