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Amazon.com to sell books by the page

Copyright holders to have a key role

NEW YORK -- Book buyers, soon you'll be able to pay by the page.

With its new Amazon Pages service, Amazon.com Inc. plans to let customers buy portions of a book -- even just one page -- for online viewing. A second program, Amazon Upgrade, will offer full online access when a traditional text is purchased.

Both services are expected to begin next year.

''We see this as a win-win-win situation: good for readers, good for publishers, and good for authors," Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said yesterday.

For Amazon Pages, Bezos said, the cost for most books would be a few cents per page, although readers would probably be charged more for specialized reference works. Under Amazon Upgrade, anybody purchasing a paper book could also look at the entire text online, at any time, for a small additional charge, Bezos said. For instance, a $20 book might cost an extra $1.99. Copyright holders would determine whether the pages could be printed or downloaded. ''We feel strongly that copyright holders get to make these decisions," Bezos said.

The Amazon disclosure came on the same day Google Inc. began serving up the entire contents of books and government documents that aren't entangled in a copyright battle over how much material can be scanned and indexed from five major libraries. The Authors Guild and five major publishers are suing to prevent Google from scanning without explicit permission.

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