Google’s real competitor: Amazon

Amazon has released a full-text search capability. I already used it to do some research on my upcoming biography, searching for books containing the word “Saptian”, the language spoken the by the Indians of the Columbia Basin. It has all the pages of most books on-line, and even highlights the term you were searching for—how on earth do they do that? They prevent you from browsing more than two pages in either direction, because they don’t want to become a free on-line book reading service, obviously.

Sure, a few people will buy a few more books from Amazon due to this cool new feature. But more basically, this is a shot across Google’s bow. Google has been sitting there saying, well, we own the index to all of the world’s information. Amazon is saying, wait a minute, there is also a little of information in this other medium called, uh, books. And guess what, we now own the index to books, so take that, Google.

I’d predict that Amazon will be monetizing this feature within six months, via the obvious routes such as ads, or possibly even with a subscription that lets people do more on-line browsing—although that would probably require some kind of agreement with the copyright holders, a-la-iTunes.

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