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Changes Afoot at Amazon’s Search Inside the Book?

Yesterday afternoon, a major book distribution company sent out an email to its publisher clients, a copy of which eventually made its way over to us, informing them of a new change in policy from online retailer Amazon.com. “Going forward, Amazon will require all titles on their site to participate in the Search Inside the Book (SITB) program,” a sales manager at Diamond Book Distributors explained. “For those of you unfamiliar with this program, it allows the Amazon customer the opportunity to browse through a book to determine whether it is right for them. The search is limited and does not allow any customers to read the entire book online.”

After detailing the SITB program some more, the sales manager added, “I will be pulling all of the titles we have listed at Amazon and sending you a list of your titles for review. When you receive the list, you’ll need to confirm every title you have in print is on the list and whether you have a pdf of any title shown as not listed on the list. Once you’ve had a chance to review the titles, we’ll get any missing titles listed and/or added to the program… Now, most of you are already participating in this program, so there won’t be any major changes. We’ll just need to make sure that we have a process in place so that any new titles will be placed in the program before the title is released.”

That was where the really interesting development kicked in: “Amazon is looking for all new titles to be placed in the program 3-4 weeks before publication—sooner, if possible. It would be nice if once we list the title, we can upload the PDF of the title so that customers can look at the book as soon as it is announced.” The added emphasis is ours—and while we can see some advantages to giving readers a sneak preview of a book months in advance, we’re not sure we’d go so far as to consider it uniformly productive for every book. And we’re definitely not convinced it’s something publishers should be compelled by retailers into doing. What do you think?

(Note: Although we have not yet spoken with Amazon to confirm their position, we believe that the email is authentic—that is to say, we believe a representative of Diamond told its clients this was Amazon’s position—and we present the information in that light. We welcome any further info other publishers or distributors out there might have on the subject as we press forward…)

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