Peter Kindersley, chairman, said yesterday that the move would boost, not hurt, sales. "When [consumers] see the true extent of the content, they want to buy the books," he said. "All the time you'll be one click away from buying a DK book or CD-Rom."
Already, DK has more than 100 titles from its Eyewitness reference series on the Net. Over the coming months, othertitles will be transferred to cyberspace, including its city travel guide series, which will be continuously updated for web users.
"It really will be the ultimate try-before-you-buy web site," said James Middlehurst, chief executive of DK, which launched the Net initiative as DK unveiled an 18 per cent rise in pre-tax profit to pounds 10.65m for the year to June. The popularity of several tie-in "Star Wars" books, including Episode One: Incredible Cross Sections, helped full-year sales advance 7.7 per cent to pounds 199.2m after a flat first-half.
Mr Middlehurst defended the commercial logic of making the company's 2,000-plus titles available free, noting that readers will find it cheaper to buy DK books than to print them from the web. "The issue here is about building a global brand," he said. "If you create the right sampling environment, you will sell the product."
DK also said it will start up local language publishing ventures in Germany and France. Its stock closed up 8p at 394p.