Google to debut new e-book store

Faith Merino · December 1, 2010 · Short URL:

Google Editions will reportedly debut some time before the end of the year

Google is gearing up to throw itself full-force into the e-book ring.  Google Editions, the company’s new online e-book retail branch, is set to launch by the end of 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. 

The venture was originally scheduled to debut this summer, but several legal and technical obstacles delayed the big arrival.  Those obstacles have been tackled and Google Editions has been cleared for launch, insiders close to Google told WSJ.

The business model will be a big departure from Amazon’s model, wherein consumers can only buy e-books on  The Google model will allow consumers to purchase e-books through Google or from other online retailers, including independent book retailers, and can add them to a library that is attached to a Google account.  Furthermore, the e-books will be readable on almost any device with a Web browser, including a smartphone, PC, or tablet. 

Google has said that it doesn’t want to limit its e-books to tablets only.  In addition to the store itself, Google intends to set up an advertising-like system whereby certain books are recommended based on similar website content.  For example, a website about politics might feature a link to a book about politics.  The link will take users to Google Editions, and the website will share in the revenue.  Another program will allow booksellers to sell Google’s e-books from their own websites and share in the revenue.

Google has not said yet how much revenue it will share with retailers, how exactly which booksellers will be partnering with Google to offer their books. 

Because Google plans to sell its e-books at prices equivalent to other book retailers, like Barnes and Noble and Borders, publishers are happy.  "The Google model is going to drive a lot of sales. We think they could get 20% of the e-book market very fast,” said Dominique Raccah, owner of independent publisher Sourcebooks Inc., who spoke to WSJ.

Google has no apparent plans to release a specific device that is exclusively designed for Google Edition e-books, which may or may not be good news for Amazon, which is losing its Kindle audience to the iPad, according to recent data from ChangeWave Research.  While the Kindle still maintains a lead over Apple’s iPad, that lead is shrinking.  The number of Kindle owners has dropped 15% since August, while the number of iPad owners has risen 16%.  Furthermore, ChangeWave found that iPad owners expressed much higher levels of satisfaction than Kindle owners, with 75% of iPad owners claiming to be “very satisfied” with their device compared to 54% of Kindle owners.

The fuel behind Amazon’s Kindle has long been its promise of cheap e-books, a promise that has dried up in recent months as Amazon’s business model began cutting into publishers’ revenues, prompting an industry-wide protest.  So now Amazon is left to sell the Kindle on its own merits, and while it’s very fancy pantsy, it’s no iPad.

With Google throwing its hat in the ring with an even more open business model and making its books fully accessible on the iPad, Amazon will be facing dark times ahead.

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