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Books get new form on the web

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Seattle (dpa) - Online retail giant Amazon plans to launch a service that allows customers to buy digital excerpts of books, the latest example of how the Internet is reshaping the market for readers, writers and the publishing industry.

Amazon's announcement of the new "Amazon Pages" initiative Thursday came as Google officially launched its book service - an ambitious plan to scan and digitize the world's libraries and make their content available to Internet users, who would be able to search entire texts for relevant material.

Google's plan has aroused the ire of copyright holders, who maintain that Google's scanning would violate their rights. Google has insisted that it would be breaking no law, but its initial digital library avoided the issue by including only works that are already in the public domain.

Microsoft and Yahoo are teaming up for a similar system but have pledged to work in conjunction with copyright holders. However, they were beaten to market by Amazon, whose new service to sell just a few pages or chapters of a book was welcomed by publishers.

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said Amazon customers soon would be able to buy snippets of books for as little as a few cents a page - a useful tool for tourists planning a trip, chefs seeking recipes or students assigned one chapter in an expensive text book.

Bezos also introduced a service known as Amazon Upgrade that lets book buyers purchase online access to the same volume they had shipped to them in paper form. The online version will be available in full via the web, making it searchable through a browser.

The new services build on the search-inside-the-book feature that the Seattle-based e-tailer introduced two years ago.

"Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade leverage Amazon's existing search-inside-the-book technology to give customers unusual flexibility in how they buy and read books," said Bezos.

Amazon already allows users to peek into some books and analysts said the new approach could do for boks what Apple's iTunes did for music and create an online business model that gives writers and publishers a fair share of the proceeds.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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