Amazon To Start Charging For ‘Look Inside’ Feature?

Amazon’s handy, free “Look Inside” feature might be going away. According to TechFlash, Amazon was recently granted a patent that would require consumers to pay to preview books on their website.

The “try before you buy” concept is important to online consumers as it allows them to look through a book much like they would in a brick and mortar store. However, Amazon says in the 2004 patent application that consumers “are loath to pay for a work when they can view the work for free.” It sounds as if they feel the free preview has backfired on them.

The Amazon patent describes a system where consumers would “pay different amounts to view portions of content from the electronic form of a work,” including chapters, pages, paragraphs, and sentences. The costs would vary based on the genre, the publisher, or “consumers’ past viewing behavior or purchases.”

They would also allow people to apply the preview fee to the cost of the book if they decide to purchase it. Amazon cites an example using a Stephen King novel. They say that if a customer paid $1 to preview a chapter in the sixth book in King’s The Dark Tower series, the purchase price of the book would then be discounted $1.

It’s unclear if this would also apply to the free samples Amazon allows Kindle owners to download for free. I’m guessing it probably would, which would be a bummer since I use this feature all the time. It’s a great way to get a feel for a book and decide if it’s something you want to read, but I certainly won’t pay to use it. Allowing customers to look at merchandise before they buy it is a natural part of the buying process, and I think it should be free.

What do you think about this patent application? Do you think Amazon could alienate customers by charging them to preview books?

Follow me on Twitter @kristendaemons

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