Nearly but not quite: musings on playing with Amazon Online Reader

In writing my previous post, I really wanted to get the quote from Po Bronson’s Bombardiers right. So first off I looked for the book in my library, and couldn’t find it. Probably packed away already, I’m in the process of moving house. Oh well.
So I thought I’d try Amazon Online Reader. Found the book in Amazon, went to Excerpt, went to Search Inside This Book, and then entered “First Law” as my search term.

Bingo, I got a number of results returned, including the specific one I wanted, on page 81. Which I guess I could have linked to, which is what I have done here.

Seems completely fair use to me; I don’t have many readers, but if even one person buys Bombardiers from Amazon as a result of my post, then that’s one book more worth of revenue than Amazon or Bronson had before I did what I did.

This is me just experimenting on what could be, when everything is scanned and searchable, what Google and Amazon have been trying to do in different ways. The potential in education and in research is amazing.

Of course, there are obvious drawbacks. The population of books scanned is still relatively low. I can’t use highlight or print as yet. When something I want to quote happens to go beyond a page boundary, it is messy from a linking point of view, the physical page concept is deeply ingrained for obvious reasons.

But worst of all, there was no way for me to copy and paste, so the only thing I could do was to swivel-chair engineer it. Read it, memorise it in chunks, type it out. [Yes I know there are other drawbacks, some of which I mention later. Here I am concentrating on drawbacks to existing functionality, rather than missing functionality].
It’s great to be able to do what I’ve been able to do so far, so thank you Amazon. I’ve tried bits of this before, but this was the first time I did so “in anger”. [Wonder how that phrase came about. Must check. Odd].

Unfortunately, since I don’t live in the US, I have not been able to participate in the Amazon Upgrade program. But even if I could have, my understanding is that the program is restricted to books I personally purchased from Amazon directly. [Wry grin as I think about someone who lives in the US but buys books from, and, and how the “system” will cope with that.]

What I would really want is a LibraryThing equivalent where I have a simple way of telling Amazon which books I have, leading up to some recurring fee with low frequency (like an annual season ticket) allowing me to have digital access to all my books; this fee should not care how many books I have, how often I use the service. What I pay for is the software-as-service; the books are mine; the information I generate is mine; but the process by which I transform what I have is something I have to pay for.

Such a service has to, just has to include books I have bought from sources other than Amazon. Cue Dick Hardt and Doc Searls and whose information it is.

3 thoughts on “Nearly but not quite: musings on playing with Amazon Online Reader”

  1. Google: These books are free
    Search giant makes PDFs of entire public-domain works available for download and print.
    By Candace Lombardi
    Staff Writer, CNET

    Published: August 30, 2006, 10:24 AM PDT
    TalkBack E-mail Print Digg this
    Google Book Search now offers PDF files of scanned books that can be downloaded and printed for free, Google announced on Wednesday.

    Readers can find the books by choosing the “Full view books” option on the Google Book Search home page before they activate their search. Once they have chosen a book from the results page, a download button is clearly visible on the top-right corner of the page.

    The PDFs are offered only for those books that fall into the public domain and are intended for personal use.

    “We use very conservative rules to comply with international copyright laws,” Google spokeswoman Megan Lamb said.

    A book’s availability depends on the country from which the user is accessing the site. Google blocks users from works that are not yet in the public domain for their country, Lamb said.

    A carefully worded note on usage from Google, included as the first page of each downloaded PDF file, explains what “public domain” means and how it can vary by country. Google also notes that users are responsible for following their own country’s copyright laws.

    “Make noncommercial use of the file. Refrain from automated querying. Maintain attribution. Keep it legal,” Google lists as usage guidelines.

    In other news:
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    The bottom-right corner of every PDF book page contains a “Digitized by Google” watermark.

    While Google Book Search limits the amount of copyright text a person can view in one session, Google has been criticized for the project, which entails scanning entire works, many protected by copyright, in order to make them searchable online. Microsoft began a similar project but has offered an opt-in method for publishers rather than an opt-out one.

    Partners in Google’s project to digitize library books in the United States and the United Kingdom include the University of California, Harvard University, University of Michigan, The New York Public Library, Oxford University and Stanford University.

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