The iPodding of Books

As a died-in-the-wool hardcopy reader, good luck, I say. For some kinds of books, it might even be a good idea: Want ‘War and Peace’ Online? How About 20 Pages at a Time?

The idea is to do for books what Apple has done for music, allowing readers to buy and download parts of individual books for their own use through their computers rather than trek to a store or receive them by mail. Consumers could purchase a single recipe from a cookbook, for example, or a chapter on rebuilding a car engine from a repair manual.

The initiatives are already setting off a tug of war among publishers and the potential vendors over who will do business with whom and how to split the proceeds. Random House, the biggest American publisher, proposed a micropayment model yesterday in which readers would be charged about 5 cents a page, with 4 cents of that going to the publisher to be shared with the author. The fact that Random House has already developed such a model indicates that it supports the concept, and that other publishers are likely to follow.

The proposals could also become bargaining chips in current lawsuits against Google by trade groups representing publishers and authors.

Related: Google Adds Library Texts to Search Database