Will Google Make a Move on E-Books by New Year's?

And can they really compete with the Amazon juggernaut?

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The Wall Street Journal reports that Google plans to launch its e-book venture, Google Editions, before the end of 2010. Google is a relative latecomer to the e-book game, but the company hopes that its unconventional approach will help it compete with Amazon, which is believed to have as much as 65 percent of the market. With Google Editions, users can buy books from Google itself or from online retailing partners, including a number of independent bookstores. Also, the Google Editions service won't be linked to a specific device; rather, users will be able to read their books "on most devices with a Web browser, including personal computers, smartphones and tablets." Here's what people are saying about the latest Google curveball:

  • How It's Different From Amazon  The Journal notes that Google Edition's model--buy from lots of different places, read on almost any device--will stand in contrast to Amazon's, where "users of its proprietary Kindle device can purchase books only from an Amazon store, although they can read them on dozens of different devices that run Kindle software and can access free books from other sources."
  • Google's Vision: The Web as One Giant Bookstore  The Journal goes on to report that "Google says it is on a mission to reach all Internet users, not just those with tablets, through a program in which websites refer their users to Google Editions. For example, a surfing-related blog could recommend a surfing book, point readers to Google Editions to purchase it, and share revenue with Google. Through another program, booksellers could sell Google Editions e-books from their websites and share revenue with Google. 'Google is going to turn every Internet space that talks about a book into a place where you can buy that book,' says Dominique Raccah, publisher and owner of Sourcebooks Inc., an independent publisher."
  • Three Cheers for Device Flexibility, writes Robert Quigley at Geekosystem. "One of the most common complaints about the e-book landscape in its current incarnation is that most book sales are so closely tied to sister devices — Amazon books to the Kindle, B&N books to the Nook, Borders books to the Kobo, and so on, with clunky porting and in some cases reduced functionality when attempting to read outside books in addition to restrictive DRM. Against that backdrop, an e-book store that sold easily portable books could have a lot of appeal, although it waits to be seen whether Google's execution will be a success."
  • May Not Matter That This Didn't Come Sooner, writes Douglas McIntyre at DailyFinance. "It would be easy to dismiss Google's new project because it is late to enter a market in which large competitors have loyal customers. But it's worth remembering that Google's mobile operating system, Android, entered its market late. The mobile OS world was dominated by Symbian, Microsoft (MSFT) Apple (AAPL), and Research In Motion (RIMM). Google created a model that made it attractive to handset companies. If Google Editions offers special features and innovative technology, it can't be counted out of the race."
  • How Will Revenue Break Down? wonders Tameka Kee at the marketing firm Econsultancy. "We won't know the rev-share terms until Google Editions launches, but for the sales platform to gain marketshare with authors and publishers, it will absolutely need to be better than the 70/30 split Amazon currently offers."
  • This Sounds Awesome, declares Vlad Savov at Engadget. "Retail pricing won't differ, we're told, from what Amazon and Barnes & Noble currently charge, which raises the question, what's the downside to Editions?"
  • Well, Maybe This Is a Downside, suggests Rob Pegoraro at The Washington Post: "You do have to trust Google to live up to its terms document's description of 'perpetual' access to titles for buyers ... Buying books that will remain on another company's binary bookshelf requires some faith." But, Pegoraro adds, "is that more or less of a stretch than hoping Amazon will ship a Kindle application for every new mobile device you might use between now and the end of your life?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.