Widgets, Widgets Everywhere . . .

The proto book widget was probably Amazon’s Inside the Book tool.   It doesn’t quite qualify as a widget since ordinary users couldn’t drag and drop it on their own web pages or blogs.  But it showed the way:  access to certain parts of the book -e.g. the table of contents – and the ability to view excerpted content.  Google extended this with its Reader technology.  But now there are true book widgets coming to market – from pubishers as well as software developers. 

Random House Insight book widgetMost notable is the Ramdom House Insight widget.  It features the ability to search and preview book contents, display the book cover, link to a purchase ssite and add the widget to a web page.  For audiobooks, it has an embedded audio player.   The widget’s functionality is made possible by a set of web services developed by the company.  These services will allow independent widget developers to expose and use the company’s proprietary book data in innovative ways.  Alex Iskold (Read / Write Web blog) gives a nice writeup on the Random Hosue widget in his article “Random House – Widgets and Web Services Done Right.”  Iskold concludes:

Its great to see an older and bigger company that gets widgets and web services. Random House is leveraging its information in a controlled way to businesses and exposes it in a viral way to end users. This is savvy and economical. Their widget implementation nails the user experience, packing the key functions of searching and browsing into the widget. The only thing that would be great to add to the widget is user and expert reviews, but this does not seem to be the information that Random House has.

In February, HarperCollins introduced a book widget, Browse Inside, though its feature set isn’t quite as robust as that of the Insight widget.  It provides the capability to view a book’s front matter and the first few pages, but has no general search or audio capability. 

iPhone book widgetHarry Potter countdown widgetAnother widget called iBookdb from Shelfari.com – allows users to set up a virtual bookshelf on their site or blog.  The “bookshelf” is a set of images linked to a description of the books chosen.  Some widgets even have a finite shelf life.  For example, the multiple Harry Potter countdown widgets which counted down the days to the release of the last book in Harry Potter series.   For mobile book widget lovers, there is the iPhone “This day in history” widget which takes content from MacKiev’s 2007 World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia and displays an historical item each day. 

And should you want to turn your blog into a book, there is now a widget – Blog2Print widget from SharedBook, Inc.  Currently in beta, the product is limited to blogs on Google’s Blogger.com.  In it’s press release, the company said:

Blog2Print is a quick and easy way for blog owners to compile their favorite posts in printed book format. The widget also gives bloggers the ability to monetize their content through the sale of newly created books. Content owners can sign up to receive a 20 percent share of the retail price of all blog books made by others of their content.

 All of this widget ware is opening up a potential new viral distribution channel for books publishers.  These software snippets, combined with widespread social networking on the web, may one day pose a serious challenge to the more established book distribution channels.

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