Selling ourselves short on search and discovery

Why don't our own websites enjoy the same content access we offer Google and Amazon?

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.

Discovery and data go hand in hand

Discovery and data go hand in hand

The fourth in a series looking at the major themes of this year's TOC conference.

Several overriding themes permeated this year's Tools of Change for Publishing conference. The fourth in a series looking at five of the major themes, here we take a look at discovery in publishing.

Why an ebook still needs an index

Why an ebook still needs an index

An index in an ebook offers a level of discovery search can't touch.

Why should digital publishers invest in index creation? Because ebooks that give readers efficient ways to access what they need are ebooks that will sell.

Searching in ebooks: A unique use case that requires a unique approach

Searching in ebooks: A unique use case that requires a unique approach

Ereader search tools need to limit disruption and incorporate web search best practices.

The current crop of ereaders handle ebook searching in a variety of ways — some are useful and creative, some aren’t. Here, Pete Meyers looks at the state of ebook search and how it can be improved.