Publishers who want to make their books searchable online but aren't comfortable with Google Book Search now have another option.
Publisher HarperCollins and Austin, Texas-based LibreDigital announced today a hosted service called LibreDigital Warehouse that will give publishers and booksellers the ability to deliver searchable book content on their own Web sites.
Like Google Book Search, the service will allow users to search the entire content of a book and preview a percentage of its text and illustrations.
Unlike Google, LibreDigital Warehouse allows publishers to
customize which pages a user can view, which pages are always prohibited from viewing (such as the last three pages of a novel), and what overall percentage of a book is viewable. [A reader points out in the comments that Google offers several protections along these lines. See here and here.] Publishers can customize these rules per title and per partner.
The service is the first to allow publishers to digitally capture and deliver book content in a controlled context online, according to LibreDigital.
"This solves publishers' issue of being able to assert their copyright on content on the Internet while still being able to offer all the features that the Internet allows," said Craig A. Miller, general manager of LibreDigital.
Google, for its part, maintains that it respects publisher copyright. Google Book Search, still in beta, reveals "snippets" of text when a user searches for books. If a book is not under copyright, Google allows users to view the entire book.
Google declined to comment for this article.
LibreDigital Warehouse will offer 160 to 200 HarperCollins titles initially. HarperCollins plans for the database to eventually include up to 10,000 titles. HarperCollins is currently the only participating publisher, but the program has received a "warm welcome" from other publishers who are also interested in participating, according to LibreDigital.
LibreDigital is a division of Newstand, which provides exact digital duplicates (layout included) of newspapers such as the New York Times and USA Today. Miller says that Newstand, in business since 1999, has more experience with book scanning and digital rights management, and their process is superior to Google's.
High-quality scans are important to publishers, Miller says, because they want to replicate the experience of browsing a book as closely as possible.
"While we haven't surveyed users of the book product yet," said Miller, "on the newspaper side we have seen a really high desire for that layout to be exactly duplicated online, a desire for that analogous experience. And obviously, publishers are concerned about copyright issues."
Patricia Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, said LibreDigital Warehouse would be a way to help authors, distributors and independent booksellers market their titles, while allowing publishers to maintain presentation quality and copyright control.
"Publishers, unlike the popular portrayal of them, have been digitizing their content for a very long time," said Schroeder. "They're very much ready for this. Obviously, they're very happy to work with people and with search engines that respect their copyright."
The Association of American Publishers, which represents over 300 publishers (including HarperCollins), sued Google last year for allegedly violating publishers' copyrights with Google Book Search Library Project (formerly Google Print Library). With that project, Google is scanning the contents of several university libraries without the direct involvement of the publishers.
Google is also being sued by the Author's Guild for infringing on copyrights with Google Book Search Library Project.
Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management at Google, responded to the Author's Guild suit in a blog posting last year. David Drummond, general counsel and vice president of corporate development, defended Google Print Library in a similar posting.
"Nobody in any information business wants to wind up in a world where Google is the sole intermediary," said Jupiter analyst Barry Parr. "But [LibreDigital Warehouse] is about more than just Google. Publishers still have this core problem that there aren't a lot of outlets and a handful of big retailers make up a huge percentage of their volume. Marketing and distribution is a big way publishers try to add volume and control their destinies."
HarperCollins announced a version of LibreDigital Warehouse, called "Browse Inside," on its own Web site earlier this month, although users can only browse predefined pages instead of searching.