Google Joins E-Book Market

Watch out Kindle, iPad and Nook, there’s a new guy in town!   The Wall Street Journal has reported that Google has solidified plans to launch its own digital book store this summer.  Google Editions will sell a large selection of e-books on the web competing with other providers such as Amazon’s Kindle store and Apple’s iBooks.  According to a May 4th Mashable post:

As many as 500,000 books could be included, pulled from the partners with whom Google already made deals for its Google Books search engine (previously called “Google Print” and “Google Book Search”). The books can be downloaded via web browser and will presumably not be tied to any particular device or platform (Mashable.com).

The launch comes after years of debate from the initial unveiling of Google Books mostly surrounding compensation for copywritten material.  After being faced with perpetual lawsuits, a deal was struck so that copyright holders could get a percentage of Google Book-related ad revenue and sales.  Exact pricing models for the books and who sets them (Google or the publisher) are still in the works.

With what seems like an already saturated market, how will Google Editions distinguish itself from the competition?  Readers who choose to consume their content from a portable device won’t need to worry about proprietary material – Google Editions will work on any device or web browser.   According to the Wall Street Journal:

Google’s goal is to distinguish itself from other digital book vendors by allowing users to access books from a broad range of websites using a broad array of devices (WSJ.com).

How will the public react? Competitors like Amazon and Apple may be nervous as this open model threatens their proprietary business model.  Consumers on the other hand will likely be thrilled – no longer will they be tied to one portable reading device.  Publishers will definitely be jumping on board as well.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

Publishers tend to believe the more outlets to sell books the better. Even the smallest independent bookstore will have access to a sophisticated electronic-book sales service with a vast selection of titles (WSJ.com).

The more online book providers that come to market, the more people question whether we will still have a need for actual hard copies of books.  This topic has sparked many debates and the opinions about the fate of books seem mixed.  While I do like having the option to read online or on a portable device, personally, I will always prefer actual books.  Something about the experience associated with reading a real book makes it hard for me to give them up all together.  Here is a summary of some of the chatter surrounding e-books:

Advantages:

  • Environmentally sound
  • Opens up opportunities for new/amateur writers (Google plans to allow independent book vendors to sell Google Editions from their own websites)
  • Creates jobs for tech industry
  • Less bulky/more conducive to travel/commutes
  • More engaging reading experience (ability to look up words on the spot)

Disadvantages:

  • Loses the nostalgia associated with actual books
  • Cuts down on production jobs (paper mills)
  • Potential development/motor skill issues for children learning to read online/on a portable device
  • More difficult to take notes or reference pages
  • Battery-life/technology issues
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