As my O’Reilly colleague Allen Noren recently reminded me, online discovery pretty much begins and ends with search engines. Look at the analytics of any website and you’ll find the inbound traffic largely comes from Google. So what are we doing as publishers to take better advantage of that fact? What do we expose to those search engines to ensure more of the results displayed point to our websites?
Today’s search engine access is generally limited to our metadata, not full book content. As a result, books are at a disadvantage to most other forms of content online (e.g., articles, blog posts, etc.)
Here’s the big question: At what point do we expose the book’s entire contents to all the search engines? As Allen pointed out, we give all our content to Google Book Search and Amazon but that introduces middlemen. The publisher’s website doesn’t benefit from those programs. So why do we offer this privilege to Amazon and Google but our own websites don’t get the same benefit?
You might point out that Google and Amazon are able to limit reader access to that content. Even though we’ve given them the entire book they don’t let someone read it from cover to cover for free; access is limited to a certain percentage of the total work. Fair enough, but look at this bold example by Craig Mod. Keep in mind that Craig’s goal isn’t to simply let everyone read his book for free. As he puts it:
I also believe that we will sell more digital and physical copies of Art Space Tokyo by having all of the content available online. The number of inbound links to the site should increase exponentially. read.artspacetokyo.com is one of the largest collections of publicly available text about the Tokyo art world online. Organic search traffic should increase accordingly, and by having upsells on every page, the conversion to paid users should follow suit.
Craig goes on to say he’ll report the results at some point. I can’t wait. Even if his experiment doesn’t lead to a large number of paying customers there will undoubtedly be many lessons to learn from it.