Amazon Touts Conversions from Book Search

Amazon.com is trumpeting statistics gleaned from the first five days after its “Search Inside the Book” feature was launched, saying sales growth for searchable titles outpaced non-searchable titles by 9 percent.

“The increased sales are a direct result of Search Inside the Book’s deep integration with Amazon.com’s easy-to-use one-click payment system,” the company said in a statement.

Amazon’s release of the figure is clearly aimed at allaying the fears of those who believe providing such search features will undermine the sales of some titles.

“Most reference books would be at clear risk in such a database. So would many (if not most) travel books and cookbooks,” the Author’s Guild said in an email to members.

Figuring out the marketing implications of full-text book search is becoming an imperative, as it’s heating up to be the latest big thing in the search arena. Google reportedly is talking to publishers about implementing a similar feature, though so far it seems to be aimed more at providing utility, rather than selling books, according to Publishers Weekly.

Some authors and book marketers believe that letting people browse books, just as they’d do in the bookstore, shouldn’t hurt sales.

Even the Authors Guild admits that, “Midlist and backlist books that are receiving little attention, for example, may benefit from additional exposure in searches.”

Michael Drew, a consultant who helps authors promote their books, says increasing exposure has always been one of his tactics. “When I have marketed books to get them on the bestseller lists, I gave e-books away for free,” he said. “And it didn’t hurt the sales, it helped them. The majority of people who read books don’t want to read a book online.”

Although Amazon’s five-day measurement would seem to support Drew’s experience, it’s not yet clear what the long-term impact of full-text search will be. For one thing, searchers will likely become more sophisticated about using the feature as they grow more experienced. If Amazon is forthcoming about its sales figures, publishers, too, will likely learn from the process, and perhaps even determine what types of books should be withheld.

Amazon launched “Search Inside the Book” with 190 publishers, and the company says 37 publishers have since requested to participate.

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