Interview: Jeff Bezos

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  • Read Later announced last week that starting next year, it would sell online access to books for a few cents per page, and let buyers access purchased books online. CEO Jeff Bezos spoke with TIME's Jeremy Caplan about the program:

TIME: Why sell access to individual pages?

Bezos: This might be useful in a university setting, for instance, where professors often assign two chapters from this textbook, one chapter from another, and a chapter or two from a third. You could use Amazon Pages to assemble a custom textbook. Amazon Upgrade is a very different new program that will allow you to upgrade your book purchase to include 24/7 perpetual online access.

TIME: How do you anticipate consumers' using books online?

Bezos: For the kind of book where you have long reading sessions, you will still want the physical book, but there may be times when you want to access a book for reference purposes. A software programming book would be a classic example. You may want to use it as a reference as you write code, to quickly look up code samples, or to check various reference pages.

TIME: What will these services cost?

Bezos: For Amazon Pages, the typical price point will be a few cents per page, and Upgrade will start at $1.99 per book.

TIME: These are aimed primarily at non-fiction readers, aren't they?

Bezos: I share your expectation that these will be used first and foremost for professional and technical books. However, if you think about Amazon Upgrade, when you buy a novel, it'll take a few days to be delivered in the mail, but this way you'll be able to get started reading the first few chapters. Keep in mind that since we typically discount books by at least 30%, even if you're paying $1.99 for Upgrade, it'll still be cheaper than buying the book at a bookstore. Anywhere you have Web access, you'll have access to these books.

TIME: How will you be sharing the revenue?

Bezos: Individual business arrangements are something we're not disclosing. Basically, we will share revenues with publishers who then share that with authors.

TIME: What was the impetus for the new programs?

Bezos: We've been working on this kind of technology for two years, since we launched Search Inside the Book. One of two books in the U.S. is now in that program. The new programs evolved out of that. We've been scanning books and we have hundreds of thousands of books already in that program, which segues into Amazon Pages and Upgrade. Search Inside the Book has been very successful, and we've recently extended it to Germany, Japan, France and the UK. Books in that program see an 8% sales lift relative to other books.