Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ebooks: Amazon Joins Google, Microsoft

It finally happened. Amazon will provide online access to the full-text of hundreds of thousands of ebooks with a library program similar to Google Books and Microsoft's Live Search Books.

According to the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Amazon will partner with several libraries and supply only books that are in the public domain or those that their partners own the copyrights to.

I'll note here that Microsoft started with just public domain books, but recently made deals with a number of publishers to provide access to newer in-copyright books as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon eventually did this as well. Although Amazon will digitize books with just its library partners for now, Amazon's stated goal, the article says, is to digitize as many books as possible. This sounds strikingly like Google's statement.

This news, coming at this time, is especially exciting since Amazon is rumored to be releasing their own dedicated ebook reader, "Kindle," sometime this year. This new digital initiative would work well with that.

Amazon's library partners include Emory University, the University of Maine at Orono, Toronto Public Library, and the Public Library of Cincinnati. Apparently the libraries will do the scanning themselves with equipment from Kirtas Technologies. The libraries will decide which books will be digitized and will share the profits for any hard copies of the books purchased through Amazon.

Ebook activities seem to be accelerating despite much ink spilled in the press that the industry has so far been "disappointing." Significant changes in the way people read books seem on the way soon, especially considering that younger people are much more willing to use ebooks than older folks. The future in this regard seems rather clear.