Random House follows Google into letting customers preview books online

Random House Publishing has become the first UK publishing group to develop an application which allows customers to browse and search titles online the same way they would in a shop.

The launch of the widget follows a succession of digital initiatives developed by Random House over the last year in an attempt to bridge the gap between old and new media. The company has created a digital warehouse which will store every book written by a Random House Group author both past and present ; marketing activity on Second Life, MySpace and Bebo ; the launch of rbooks.co.uk and the appointment of an eBook Manager and Digital Communications Manager.

These days it’s not unusual to buy books online but often we have very little to go on before hitting the big red “Add to Basket” button. Random House’s new widget will enable customers to read sections of the book and search the text online before they purchase it.

The Widget is easily customized, which Random House hope will encourage people to modify it for their own site. It’s already available on the group website and several sites such as lovereading.co.uk and bookrabbit.com are already working on rolling out their customized versions in the next few weeks.

It is significant now to see major publishing houses making their books accessible, available and - importantly - searchable online. Previous efforts, such as Google Books, which has been digitizing books and allowing people to search their contents, were initially met with much resistance from the traditional world of book publishers. These companies have been struggling to find new business models in a world where it is increasingly common to give the product, or part of it - in this case, books - away for nothing and make your money someplace else, for example through contextual ads.

Random house currently has 500 titles available to view using the widget, and by the end of the year hopes to see this number increase tenfold and with best-selling author Sebastian Faulks letting fans browse over half of his works on his website it looks like it won’t be long until the rest of the publishing world jumps on the bandwagon.

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