The Future of Online Research
Every day, 100 million Internet users conduct more than 200 million information searches at Web sites like Yahoo!, yet traditional books have almost no presence in this new information exchange. A new e-property, the sBook can change this imbalance while creating an entirely new subscription revenue source for publishers.
Quality online information
Today, 97 percent of Internet users visit the Web to search for some bit of information. Log on to AOL or another ISP (Internet Service Provider), type in a few keywords and get a list of several dozen possible Web sites that may or may not contain the information you're seeking. If the goal is to thoroughly research a topic, current services like Yahoo!, Google, Altavista or TerraLycos are woefully inadequate. Since none of these household brands are owned or driven by traditional publishers, the links they present are largely unvetted and seldom provide access to quality opinion journals and magazines.
Several publishers actually supply the tools for Internet searching (McGraw-Hill Dush-kin's PowerWeb and Springer's LINK, for example), but in general, the book industry has not embraced this approach to e-publishing, and there remains a blatant disconnect between book users and Internet users.
At close range, the Internet audience virtually mimics the traditional book consumer, particularly in professional and higher education trade sectors. More than 85 percent of college students are Internet users, and presumably, most book users are, too. A ready solution for publishers lies in an innovative technology that creates a new property altogether, the sBook. The sBook employs Orthogonal Corpus Indexing that turns professional, reference and higher educational books in any language into highly accurate Internet search direct-ories.
The sBook also has the advantage of protecting traditional book content online, at the same time filling the need for better vetted vertical searches. The sBook offers a table of contents and index to guide Internet users to sources of information. Its "directory pages" offer links to information sources—like public Web links (standard search offerings), magazine and journal articles and books—and consumers can search by keywords.
Making the first sBook
The first published sBooks make up a portion of the World Book Encyclopedia set: General, Science and Medicine. The business model involves upselling subscriptions to librarians for a reasonable price. World Book estimates the cost to build and maintain the same quality of resource by hand would be in excess of $5 million. The production cost for World Book's 20-volume sBook was less than $50,000.
Market studies indicate that a feasible annual search subscription of about 20 percent of a traditional book's list price will create a profitable e-property with as few as 250 subscribers. And sBooks may be sold as a new type of subsidiary right called a "search right."
sBooks offer superior information and knowledge publishing brands the opportunity to produce dynamic and specialized Internet information searches while establishing an entirely new revenue source. sBooks are the future of online information search-and-find.
-George W. Burch, chairman and co-founder of IndraWeb.com