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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Amazon Betting on Database

New York -- Executives at are negotiating with several of the largest book publishers about an ambitious plan to assemble a searchable online archive with the texts of tens of thousands of books of nonfiction, according to several publishing executives involved.

The plan appears to be part of a strategy to compete with online search services like Google and Yahoo! for consumers' time and attention. Providing a searchable online database of the contents of books could make Amazon a more authoritative source of information, drawing additional traffic to its online retail store.

A spokeswoman for Amazon would not confirm any of details of the plan. The publishing executives said Amazon had asked them to keep the plan confidential until the start of the service, which was scheduled for the fall.

Amazon is calling its program Look Inside the Book II, the publishers said. It would expand on a current program that lets shoppers read a table of contents, a first chapter or a few selected pages provided by the publishers of certain books. But Look Inside the Book II would let online browsers search by terms like "Caravaggio," or "Osama bin Laden," and then see a list of books mentioning the term along with the sentence that contains it. Browsers could then choose to see several pages around that citation.

Amazon appears to be betting heavily on the idea. At a time when it is squeezing hard to lower its costs everywhere else, the company is paying to enter thousands of texts into its searchable database, the publishers said. Although there are many works already in digital format, others would have to be scanned at a cost of more than $200 a book.

The challenge for web sites like Amazon is that Google's search service is increasingly cutting in front of them as the first place consumers go online, diverting shoppers who might have gone straight to Amazon, the most popular online retailer.