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Random House Gets High Marks In New Widget Wars

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March 15- March 22, 2007 Edition

Random House
Gets High Marks
In New Widget Wars

NEW YORK, NY/3/13/07–Random House joined the “widget wars” March 1 with the introduction of its Insight Service, a set of programming tools that allow Internet applications to view and search digitized book content. After barely two weeks on the market, the service is getting rave reviews from both media and technology sites. Through keyword searches, users can get inside actual book content and find matches against the full text of the book. The ability to search and read actual pages from thousands of titles is just a click away. Users can search for a favorite character, sample some pages, buy a book or add the title to their own web sites!

Widgets are self-contained online readers that allow owners (in this case, publishers concerned with copyright security) the ability to manage and control access to content, regardless of where in cyberspace the information might be distributed, including websites, retail partners, search engines, publicity outlets, blogs, and readers. Earlier this year, HarperCollins rolled out its “Browse Inside” feature that eventually will be available for all of its books and can be embedded in blogs and websites. Thus, some technical websites have declared that the “widget war is on” among publishers who are using the new tool to grab market attention for their titles.

The Random House system provides a secure gateway for search engine spiders like Google to crawl book content at the publisher’s discretion. Online retail partners, search engines and social networks are using the Insight tools to provide page views of actual book pages as well as “search inside” functionality for text. Social networks like MySpace use simple URL requests to easily wrap into the content. The book reader is built in Flex, and creates a 50 page (or so) preview for most of their books, in a variety of formats and sizes Random House is now prominently displaying the technology on its own home page at www.randomhouse.com, initially offering “insights” into more than 5,000 mostly front list titles.

In addition Random House is offering the service to other publishers. While Insight is an easy tool to get the publisher’s digital content onto the websites of retail partners, search engines, publicity outlets, authors, logs, and readers. But the most important aspect of the system is that the publisher’s digital book content remains in the hands of the publisher. Copyright security issues have incited numerous court battles between search engine giants like Google and major publishers who are trying to hang onto their rights in the digital world. The Insight system leverages existing industry tools like ONIX to guarantee ownership and management of digitized content remains in the hands of partner publishers and that those partners can manage access to content from third-party websites.

Initial feedback on a variety of technical blogs touts Random House Insights as the winner of round one in what they are calling the “widget wars.” One blog said, the “Random House widget is the clear winner for its self-contained design.” Fran Toolan, founder of Quality Solutions, Inc., developers of publishers tracking software applications, calls the Random House system a “slicker, more functional “widget” than HarperCollins’s tool. So the widget race is on!