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TheStreet Open House

Amazon Selling Books by the Page

Updated from 3:52 p.m. EST

Further shaking up the book world, Amazon.com (AMZN) and Random House announced separate plans to sell digital book access by the page.

The initiatives by Seattle-based Amazon and New York's Random House, which is owned by German media giant Bertelsmann, will create a system of selling books that's similar to how Apple Computer (AAPL) sells music through its iTunes site at apple.com/tunes .

Book publishers have been reluctant to embrace digital technology out of fear of being crippled by the illegal downloading that has hurt the music business, said Pat Longstaff, associate professor at Syracuse University, who does research on communications technology. She said the appeal of digital books may be limited at first.

"For scholars and people who are only interested in specific information, that is probably is a market in the near- to mid-term," she said. "For other people, it's going to be take a while longer. ... Downloading a chapter of a mystery novel doesn't cut it."

Through a service called Amazon Pages, Amazon will allow people to "inexpensively" buy chapters from a book and read them online, the Seattle-based company said in a statement. Customers will get complete online access to the book through another service called Amazon Upgrade. Both services are an extension of Amazon's existing search within a book program. The company, which didn't specify prices, didn't return phone calls for comment.

"Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade leverage Amazon's existing Search Inside the Book technology to give customers unusual flexibility in how they buy and read books," said CEO Jeff Bezos. "In collaboration with our publishing partners, we're working hard to make the world's books instantly accessible anytime and anywhere."

Random House will also allow online viewing of its books on a pay-per-view basis. It will negotiate separate agreements with online book sellers, search engines and other Web sites, the company said in a statement.

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