Optimizing Your Web Presence
“For every chapter, we have a ‘skim chapter’ feature that pulls out the most significant text,” he says. “It facilitates online browsing and online reading. We’ve made all sorts of improvements to the interface that make it, in some ways, better than the book, in terms of searchability and findability. And for a researcher, the online experience is better.”
For perspective on complicated issues, however, Jensen says, books are still the favorite.
“There’s nothing like a book for sitting and absorbing ideas. If you’re trying to find a fact, the Web is great,” Jensen says.
So why, then, has it taken so long for the STM market to fully engage itself in the Web?
“I think it’s because, we, as publishers, have always dealt with physical objects that people held in their hands,” Jensen says. “They don’t trust things that aren’t physical objects. I think we confused the container and the content. There’s a big difference between the two …” he says. “I think we are, by nature, a risk-averse profession. Books are a risky endeavor. People would shy away from taking risks that other people got burned by. The Internet was such a huge shift in … paradigms of information, how we connect to people, that it took some time to see what the reverberations might be.”
The Experiment and the Future
Because of the potential risk, NAP didn’t jump in blindly to the Web-content pool. In 2002, it conducted an online experiment to see what the cannibalization rate would be if it offered its content online as free PDFs. The experiment interrupted customers purchasing online orders of printed books, and offered them free or discounted PDFs of some content.
“The short summary—42 percent of the people that were offered free PDFs took [them],” he says. “The others were willing to pay $40 or so, even though they were offered this free version.”