By Joe Wikert
How are publishers helping you find the perfect book? Most let you search their sites. You just type in a topic and a relevant title pops up.
This is pretty similar to how search works on Amazon. In both cases, book metadata is used to determine the best matches. So if the search phrase happens to be in a book’s title, description, etc., that title is likely to float to the top of the results.
That’s great, but why can’t publisher’s leverage the book’s contents, not simply its metadata, for the search process. Amazon’s Search Inside feature lets you do this, but only after you’ve selected a particular book.
What if you’re a publisher with a deep catalog on religion and someone is looking for the book with the most in-depth coverage of Pope Francis? Metadata-only searches can help, but the full contents are the only way to truly measure topical depth, especially if you want to compare two similar titles to see which one has the most extensive coverage of the search phrase.
Google Book Search (GBS) offers this sort of visibility but most publishers have a cap on the percentage of content visible to GBS users. That’s primarily because publishers want to prevent someone from reading the entire book without buying it.
The solution is to expose all the contents to a search tool and display results that only show snippets, not full pages. That’s exactly what we now offer on our bookstore website at Our Sunday Visitor. If you click on the Power Search link at the top of the page you’ll be taken to this new search tool.
If I search for “Pope Francis” I get these results. The top title has 203 hits, so if I click “view 203 results,” I can then take a close look at every occurrence of my search phrase in the highest ranked title. Note that this platform considers proximity, so if you have a multi-word search you can limit the results to just those instances where the words are closest to each other. At any point you can click on the cover image to read title details or buy the book.
Think about how powerful this tool is for publishers with deep lists on vertical topics (e.g., cooking, math, science, self-help, etc.). Instead of relying exclusively on the book description to make the sale, the contents are fully searchable and comparable across a list of related titles.
We are in the early experimentation phase with this platform. Our plan is to use a variety of ads that say something like, “Find your next great read”; users who click on those ads will be taken to the search landing page where they can explore the full contents of our entire ebook catalog.
This search platform is powered by the outstanding team at MarpX. If you’re a publisher and would like to experiment with this on your site, you’ll find contact info at the bottom of MarpX’s home page.
TeleRead publisher’s note: As a reader, writer, publisher, or mix, just how helpful do you think search functions are on publishers’ sites? Or those of e-tailers like Amazon? What do you like? What might be improved, and how? – D.R.