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11/7/2005
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Pay By The Page

Does free always win? Amazon, which likes to get paid for providing books, is going to find out as it launches a service next year to let customers buy online access to any page, section, or chapter of a book.

That eventually will compete with Google Print, a controversial free online service that last week made available its first collection of books. The digitized books were all published before 1923 and are in the public domain, so there's no dispute over copyrights. Its another step in Google's plan to make all of the world's books freely available online.

Amazon is trying to build on its "Search Inside the Book" technology to let customers buy part of a book and read it online. Book buyers also can "upgrade" their hard copies with digitized versions, Amazon says. It didn't say what a page or chapter would cost. But Amazon invited publishers, many of whom are fighting Google's plan, to join it in the new digital book-delivery service.

Initially, the free books offered by Google won't be the same as the recently published tomes offered by Amazon. But once there's an overlap, we'll see if free beats paid.

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