Publishers taking a page from the Web

IDG Books, the publisher of the ubiquitous For Dummies series, is offering readers the chance to design their own books on the Web. Readers can buy just the chapters they want or buy parts of several books and have them bound together. This is probably the first time a major publisher has offered readers the chance to mix and match chapters to create personalized books. The move is another example of how book publishing – one of the most staid businesses around – is gradually realizing how the Web's technological feats can transform the way it sells its products. International Data Group, the majority investor in IDG Books, is the publisher of many IT magazines – including Digit. IDG Books is teaming up with print-on-demand publisher iUniverse to offer downloadable versions of 525 of its how-to Dummies books, Frommer's travel guides and Cliff Notes. A customer would be able to download the text and print it out, or store it on an e-book. Customers could also buy a bound version, which would be printed as a paperback and sent to them. The feature will be up and running in late fall. IDG Books plans to eventually make all 4,000 of its titles available through iUniverse. The deal would allow readers to grab sections of several books so that they could buy just the parts they want. A traveler headed to France, for example, could order three chapters from a Frommer's guidebook about Paris, a chapter from Wine For Dummies about French wines, and a few pages from Art For Dummies that describe the Louvre and have them bound together. Only IDG titles will be available so far, but the company says it is open to making other publishers' titles available, as well. Of course, it might take some legwork for readers to figure out which chapters they want from what books. And the service circumvents the publishers' editorial wisdom about what readers should get. The concept might be better suited to how-to books than to novels or mysteries. There is no word yet on how much the books would cost.

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