Buy O'Reilly Books by the Chapter

One of the compelling lessons of the digital music revolution was that people wanted to acquire and share songs, not albums. The analogies to books are imperfect, because books tend to be more of an essential organic whole than albums, but even with books, especially reference or tutorial books, it’s certainly possible that someone wants only part of a book. Based on this idea, we’ve had a goal for quite some time to enable “by the chapter” purchase and download. We’ve finally got this working, just in time for rollout at our Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, which starts on Monday with tutorials, and with the full conference program on Tuesday.

Go to virtually any O’Reilly catalog page (well, actually, 350 books are live as of Saturday night), and in addition to the existing options (buy this book, buy a downloadable pdf, buy reprint rights, read online with Safari), you can now buy individual chapters for $3.99 each.

Here’s an example:

Click on the “Select Chapter” button, and you’ll be taken to the browsable TOC (in which you can click on any section to expand it and take a look at it) to choose the chapter you want. In the screen shot below, I’ve selected chapter 2, which I can now choose to purchase by clicking the “Buy PDF of Chapter” button.

This capability is a direct outgrowth of the Xquery infrastructure we originally built for SafariU, our remixable textbook initiative. Allen Noren, our director of web marketing, provided a bit more detail and kudos to those involved:

After years of plotting, and many hours of dedicated developer time, our customers now have the ability to buy our book content by the chapter in PDF format. This feature is being rolled out on 714 books initially, the same books that are part of the CCC RightsLink project, but does not include HF or Digitial Media titles. For the rollout, pricing per chapter is $3.99.

Note that each chapter has its own TOC and index, which is possible because of the infrastructure we built with SafariU. Each chapter is also bookmarked and searchable. What they are still lacking is a book cover, and the ability to click [the embedded] TOC or index entry and be taken to that part of the chapter, but those are coming.

I’d like to thank several people who were instrumental in making this possible. Tim, Laura Baldwin, and CJ for backing the idea and making sure the resources were available to get it done. Pascal Honscher, John Haren, Charles Greer, Eric Parker, Julie Delany, and Robert Ottaway for their excellent programming skills. Ryan Grimm (now at MarkLogic) built the xquery code for SafariU that the pdf formatting relies upon. George Humphreys and Matthew Woodruff provided graphic support, and Tim Hinton and Michelle from PickBasic worked the magic on CISPub so these can be sold. As always, I sincerely hope I didn’t miss anyone.