Should You Expose All Your Book’s Content to Search Engines?

In Tech Digest by Dennis Abrams

By Publishing Perpectives

O’Reilly Media’s Joe Wikert took a look at the intersection of online discovery and search engines. Look at the analytics of any website, he argues, and you’ll find that most inbound traffic comes from Google. This, he says, raises questions: What should publishers be doing to take advantage of that fact? How much material should be given to search engines to guarantee that the results displayed will point directly to their websites?

But he bottom line question he asks is this: At what point should publishers expose the book’s entire content to all the search engines? And while he offers no easy one-size-fits-all answer, he does point to the example of Craig Mod, whose book Art Space Tokyo has been published in digital editions across multiple platforms, “within two distinct ecosystems:”

1.  open [the web]

2.  and closed [iBooks, Kindle, and other ereaders]

On his website, Mod states simply that his book needed a touchable home, and an online public address for all its contents. The entire book is there: interviews, essays, and art space information, and everything has an address.

All of which, of course, begs the question, “Why do it?” Mod explains:

“I strongly believe digital books benefit from public endpoints. The current generation of readers (human, not electronic) have formed expectations about sharing text, and if you obstruct their ability to share — to touch — digital text, then your content is as good as non-existent. Or, in the least, it’s less likely to be engaged.

“I also believe that we will sell more digital and physical copies of Art Space Tokyo by having all of the content available online. The number of inbound links to the site should increase exponentially. is one of the largest collections of publicly available text about the Tokyo art world online. Organic search traffic should increase accordingly, and by having upsells on every page, the conversion to paid users should follow suit. We’ll report back with numbers in time.”

Of course, Mod’s book is several years old and caters to a relatively small niche market and so serving up all the content to search can only help give a significant boost to its visibility. Based on this, perhaps the better questions might be, “when” should you expose all your book’s content to search engines, rather than how much.

Regardless of the results (which we will follow-up on), what is learned through this experiment should prove to be fascinating.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.