Amazon Building Online Book Service

Amazon said on Thursday that it was developing a new program to allow customers to purchase the rights to view either portions of or an entire book online.

The effort could be viewed as a response to Google's announcement that it had significantly expanded its online book searching service, while taking an approach that is more acceptable to authors and publishers.

A number of groups have complained that under the Google system, there is no way for copyright holders to receive compensation from those who may view their work online. They argue that Google users would not go out and purchase a copy the book, hurting publishers and authors economically.

It seems as if some publishers already see the Amazon system as the way to go.

"It is important for the publishing community to explore new business models for digital delivery that compensate publishers and authors fairly," Holtzbrinck Publishers CEO John Sargent said in a statement supporting the initiative.

The new program consists of two services: Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade. The first level, called Pages, would enable the user to purchase a portion of the book to read online. Amazon says this feature could be useful for those who may only need information from certain sections of a book.

Amazon Upgrade goes a step further to allow the purchase of online rights to an entire book. Not only would the user receive an online version of the book, but an actual copy of the book would also be sent to the customer's address.

"We're working hard to make the world's books instantly accessible anytime and anywhere," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

The company is currently seeking publishers to participate in the new service, and is inviting them to contact Amazon's digital books department.

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