Google Editions embraces universal e-book format
Google will launch an e-book store called Google Editions with a “don’t be evil” twist. Unlike Google’s biggest competitors Amazon and Barnes & Noble that rely heavily on restrictive DRM, Google will not be device-specific—allowing for e-books purchased through Google Editions to be read on a far greater number of e-book readers that will flood the market in 2010.
Google’s e-books will be accessible through any Web-enabled computer, e-reader, or mobile phone instead of a dedicated device. This will allow content to be unchained from expensive devices such as Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. However, as democratizing as this sounds, it’s still unclear how many people are ready to curl up with a Google Editions title on their laptop or smartphone, instead of the traditional paper format?
Google Editions: The Basics
The new e-book store will launch sometime during the first half of 2010, and will have about 500,000 titles at launch. Under Google’s payment scheme, publishers will receive about 63 percent of the gross sales, and Google will keep the remaining 37 percent.
Google also hopes to offer Editions titles through other online book retailers. In this scenario, online retailers would get 55 percent of revenues minus a small fee paid to Google, and publishers would get 45 percent. Google may also create deals to sell Google Editions books directly through a book publisher’s Website, but no details have been announced for how that scenario would work, according to Read Write Web.
Google Editions as Web Apps?
Google’s e-books would reportedly be indexed and searchable like many books are now through Google’s Book Search, according to Reuters. Unlike titles offered through e-readers, Google Editions books would not have to be accessed through a dedicated reader or special application.
Instead, any device with a Web browser will be able to access a Google Editions book. After you purchase and access your online book for the first time, it will be cached in your browser making the book available when you’re offline.
To me, this sounds like Google wants to turn the e-book, or more accurately the e-reader, into a Web App. Considering Google’s push with its yet-to-be-unveiled Chrome OS and the Chrome browser, turning books into Web Apps isn't a particularly surprising move.
But is Google Editions a Game-Changer?
Whenever Google gets involved with any new business, the immediate assumption is that the company will be able to reshape the market. From the sounds of it, Google’s plans may do just that, since it will make reading and accessing e-books nearly universal on almost any device that can get to the Web. However, Google is not the first company to deliver e-books to your PC. Companies like Buy Ebook and eBooks.com already do this, and the online social publishing site, Scribd started selling e-books earlier this year.
Google’s use of the Web browser as an e-reader may make it slightly easier to access an e-book than these other retailers since Google will essentially shun the ePub and PDF formats. But one hurdle Google can’t overcome is the fact that you’ll be reading your book on a computer screen.
A common complaint about e-books is that reading them is much harder on a regular computer display. Part of the reason Amazon’s Kindle gained so much attention when it launched was its attempt to overcome this deficiency by using E-Ink technology, which tries to emulate the look of the printed page. Sure, alternatives like the iPhone’s Kindle application, and other e-reading apps for smartphones have met with some success.