Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Google Editions Launching This Summer to Challenge Amazon, Apple


Google will begin selling electronic books online as early as June, vying with the likes of Amazon and Apple in the effort to make money from digital content.

Google will sell some of the 12 million-plus books its has scanned online through Google Editions, a Webstore geared to challenge online books offered through Amazon's Kindle e-reader and Apple's iPad tablet computer.

Amazon has sold more than 3 million Kindles to date, while Apple has shipped 1 million iPads in less than a month.

While those devices keep digital books tethered through digital rights management software, Google Editions aims to lets users read books from practically any desktop, laptop or mobile gadget that features a full Web browser.

The approach is destined to appeal to users favoring more open models of content distribution, though it is unclear what sort of marketing clout Google will put into this offering. Google has sold its Nexus One smartphone through a Webstore since January, mustering sales of only 250,000 to 300,000 units.

Chris Palma, Google's manager for strategic-partner development, said at a publishing event today Google expects to launch Google Editions as early as late June or July, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A Google spokesperson confirmed Palma's statement. However, he pointed eWEEK to comments Google Books engineer Dan Clancy made in a piece that appeared in the April 26 issue of The New Yorker Magazine.

Clancy, who pegged the time frame as "middle of the year," said Google Editions will let publishers set the price of their books, which users will be able to buy after finding them on Google Book Search.

Google also plans to make e-books available for bookstores to sell, letting the stores keep the bulk of revenues.

"It's much more of an open ecosystem, where you find a way for bricks-and-mortar stores to participate in the future digital world of books," Clancy told The New Yorker's Ken Auletta. "We're quite comfortable having a diverse range of physical retailers, whereas most of the other players would like to have a less competitive space because they'd like to dominate."

Google Editions is not to be confused with Google Book Search, the company's deal with authors and publishers to scan and sell millions of orphan books, or those works for whom authors can't be found or are unknown.

Google would then let users search for them and pay to use the works, with authors and publishers taking 63 percent of the sales and Google taking the remaining 37 percent.

The Department of Justice advised the U.S. district presiding over the case to oppose the effort, leaving it in limbo until it returns to face the judge this year.