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Free Book Previews Give Sales a Boost

Posted February. 07, 2006 04:10,   


Like cosmetics samples and movie previews, the time for book previews has come. In an era where one out of five book buyers order online, getting a “taste” of purchases beforehand has become a must.

Late last year, the internet bookstore Yes 24 started a book search service and revealed on February 6 that its orders have increased by 20 percent. A senior manager at Yes 24, Joo Se-hun, said, “We’ve appointed more supervisors because more publishing companies are inquiring about our book preview service.”

Just two years ago when the portal site Naver started its book preview site, publishers wanted nothing to do with it because they expected readers would read the excerpts and be done with it.

But since the launch of the service, Naver’s book sales have skyrocketed from one hundred million won monthly to the same amount daily. Amazon, which launched its book preview service in America in 2003, reports that buyers who use their sneak peeks are buying nine percent more than those who don’t.

One book released in the second quarter of last year, “Everyday is Precious,” is an example of the virtues of the book preview service marketing strategy. All 3,000 first editions were sold out in one month after letting buyers look inside the first 30 pages of the book.

Other books that have benefited are “49 Things To Do In Life” and the recently published “Consideration.”

Naver search content unit manager Go Seok-won says, “Just as trailers are essential to movies, the internet generation demands book previews.”

Prunsoop Publishing representative Kim Hae-kyeong explains, “Whereas independent volumes don’t last six months, the service includes old books as well, so the life span of books is growing.”

Previews that show the whole book have also appeared. The electronic bookstore Booktopia features book previews for new books online by electronically offering two books weekly. Like Goryeowon Books’ “50 Colorful Foods For The Body,” the number of companies that are offering electronic versions of books even before the regular versions are released are on the rise.

Some go as far as to operate “summary sample” services. The Internet business Book Cosmos that provides summaries of five percent of each book has over 10,000 individual members and 200 group members.

The problem is, how much do you show? Right now, readers can get 1,000 characters before and after their search words, which is generally less than a tenth of the whole book. There is no agreement yet as to why or how a tenth of a book does not violate property rights.

As for now, because the Internet mostly sells practical books, publishers selling humanities or cultural books are not interested in the service.

Meanwhile, Booktopia has had so many requests to increase its search range that it is considering page fees, which would charge for each page. If this method is introduced, it will change consumers’ buying patterns yet again. “Digilog” books that break down analog books may be next.

Hee-Kyung Kim susanna@donga.com