Google Editions – The New Google eBook Store

The already crowded eBook market is about to get more interesting as Google has now announced that it is launching Google Editions, it’s own eBook store.  Google has already been working on digitizing a large number of books as part of it’s Google Books effort, and has been in the midst of a long legal battle with the rights holders to those works. Now the search engine giant is preparing to launch a store with the approval of most US publishers and an estimated 4 Million books (approximately half of which are public domain titles).  This is much more than the 1 Million titles available for the Barnes and Noble Nook, the half million available for the Kindle from Amazon, and towers over the 40-60,000 titles available on Apple’s iBooks store.

There are little details available right now on how Google’s ebBoks would work, though they have announced that the books would be available on any device with a web browser and not tied to a particular electronic gadget.  It’s also not clear if Google will apply some Digital Rights Management (DRM) to the titles on Google Editions, or if that would even be possible if the eBooks are delivered via a web browser.  There’s also no real information yet as to what pricing will look like for books and what pricing model Google will use with publishers.

This is important because consumers could balk if prices are higher than at other outlets and could potentially lead to a price war between the major players in the industry. Finally, it will be interesting to see how Google will point consumers to book titles based on search terms, especially if publishers will be able to purchase advertising to help drive traffic to specific eBook titles. For example, if you search for Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue, could someone pay Google to get the satirical Going Rouge to come up as the first search term? 

The effect of Google’s entry to the eBook marketplace is interesting because it greatly increases the supply of eBooks out in the market, which should lead to lower prices overall as the different eBook suppliers compete.  On the other hand, by making their eBook offerings accessible on most devices, Google could take on the role as a universal supplier, making works accessible on as many outlets as possible without being tied to a specific device, a la Apple. This strategy would be a step further than Amazon’s current strategy of having Kindle apps for different mobile devices and for Mac/Windows operating systems, which gave consumers more cause to purchase from Amazon to have a more universal access to their eBooks.  

The Google ebook store could also be seen as a stepping-stone prior to introducing their own slate/tablet device running the Android operating system. It’s an exciting time in the eBook market, where consumers will ultimately win as suppliers will be forced to compete by offering more titles to compete with Google’s offerings, while Google will need to make sure that the eBook reading experience is at least on par or better than current offerings.

So what do you think of Google’s plans? Is it good to have more players in the market? Or is this a let’s wait and see what it looks like situation?

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