2005 Review: The cyberspace gold rush

<p>In 2005, as never before, the bookselling industry has had to keep abreast of a dizzying number of developments online. By November, no fewer than six third-party programmes to digitise books were under way. Selling books online has been this year's gold rush.</p><p>The most controversial programme is Google Print, a book-specific search page launched in the UK in September, 10 months after the site launched in the US. Publishers and agents were quick to voice their concerns over copyright and the cost of shipping books to the US for scanning. Before the launch, the PA fired off a letter to Google, asking on what basis it believed it had the right to digitise in-copyright material without publishers' permission, while in September, US writers' group the Authors' Guild decided to sue.</p><p>The groups were backed by vocal Google opponent Nigel Newton, c.e.o. of Bloomsbury, who spoke of the possible "Napsterisation" of the publishing industry, warning that handing over books for scanning was "terribly short-sighted".</p><p>In July, Amazon launched Search Inside the Book--a search engine that it was keen to differentiate from Google Print through its principal driver of selling more books. Around 70 publishers signed up for the text search programme, including HarperCollins, Orion, Simon&amp;Schuster and Pearson Education. Amazon then built on Search Inside the Book in November through Amazon Pages--a scheme to enable US readers to pay a few cents to download individual pages of books "anytime and anywhere", to be launched in 2006.</p><p>But the rush for online gold reached fever pitch when Yahoo announced the formation of the Online Content Alliance (OCA)--a consortium launched in October that will create its own digital archive of material from publishers, libraries and archives. In the same month, Microsoft joined the OCA and launched MSN Book Search; the German Association of Book Publishers announced plans to create its own digitisation programme; and German publisher Holtzbrinck announced a service to digitally archive content, provisionally called BookStore. In addition, Random House said that it had designed a business model for enabling people to pay to view its books online.</p><p>Meanwhile, the growth of online book retail to an estimated 8% of the UK book market prompted Ottakar's to announce a renewed push at online sales. Ottakar's m.d. James Heneage hopes that the redesigned transactional website, which will be relaunched early this year, will achieve annual sales of &#163;2m, around 1% of the retailer's total turnover.</p>