Amazon adds e-books: reading your physical books online

If you buy a physical book on, you now have the option to pay (extra) for an electronic version to read on your computer. It’s called Amazon Upgrade.

As far as I know they haven’t done much advertising or publicity. I ran across the new read online option when looking at the Amazon page for a book I’d already bought:

It was only available for two books I had bought (and I’ve bought a lot of books.) One was priced at $1.89 and the other was $2.19. (This is in addition to what I originally paid for the books.)


I bought one just to see what it was like. You get to read the book in Amazon’s Online Reader, which looks like the same software used for  their “search inside this book” option. There didn’t seem to be any way to transfer it to my Kindle or to download it in any format. You could print a page at a time.

It looks like they scanned the actual book, as some of the pages are a bit crooked.

Having all the books I’ve read available to me online at any time is very intriguing. (That’s why I found BKRPR, a program to help you make electronic copies of all your books intriguing, but I wasn’t interested in investing all that time.)

And once again, I think it’s a brilliant business move from Amazon for two reasons.

  1. I’m much more likely to buy textbooks, nonfiction books and anything I think I might need as a reference from Amazon now, since I’ll be able to easily look things up in the future – even if I no longer have the book. (And the ability to search is awesome, especially when it comes to things like textbooks!)
  2. If I decide to reread a book, it’s cheaper to pay $2 for an electronic copy from Amazon than it is to use one of my credits on Paperbackswap. (I paid postage on a book for that credit.)

Now if only they’d let me download these books to my Kindle, allow me to view my Kindle books online, and make copies in different formats …

What do you think? Are you more likely to buy a book from Amazon knowing you can read it online? Do you think you’ll buy online versions for any of the books you’ve bought from Amazon?

7 Replies to “Amazon adds e-books: reading your physical books online”

  1. Nope and nope. Reading anything more than a couple of paragraphs online is akin to sticking hot needles in my eyes.

  2. Pay? To read a book they know I bought? Screw that. Transcription of copyrighted media you already own is perfectly legal. Why would you pay?

  3. I will only really consider buying e-books if they comes in a format fit for the medium. Taking the paper book and making a direct-to-screen page-by-page adaption just isn’t it.
    I want to be able to do things like scale the text (and have the word wrapping adapt to the chosen width of the “reader” window), change the font, change text color and background color, search in the text, and all that sort of advantages of using a computer for reading.
    I will also want to be able to store the books on my computer, and transfer them to (and then read them on) my Nokia Internet Tablet.
    Then, given the right price and software (using a freely implementable standard format would really be preferable), and a large enough selection of titles I want to read, I may consider it.

  4. Well, some technical book publishers provide a copy on CD with the book for free. Others, you can download. Even if it came to downloading from an unofficial source, I wouldn’t have any ethical issues with that, so long as I owned the hardcopy book too.

  5. As someone who does manually scan in his textbooks (uggh, got a chapter of calc to scan before Monday..), I can tell you it is an insanely tedious experience.
    It won’t be long until Apple starts offering textbooks on iTunes and comparing the thickness and weight of their upcoming 15″ AirBook Pro to Calculus books instead of to other laptops. Over a third of the price of textbooks is the printing and shipping. Imagine if, instead, it was half profit for Apple and half savings for the buyer. Somehow I don’t think they can overlook that possibility for long.

  6. The real question is how we at GNOME can
    a) Make the experience easier for the user (moz/webkit in an app?)
    b) Make managing/veiwing your online and offline documents easier
    c) Make the disparate locations (local, Amazon, Baen Free Library, Gutenberg, etc.) more integrated into said app
    d) Make money to feed further development

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