December 2, 2010

Google Editions Set To Launch Soon

Google Inc. is gearing up to launch its e-book venture Google Editions by the end of the year.

Scott Dougall, a Google product management director, said that the company expects to launch the project in the U.S. by the end of the year and internationally in the first quarter of next year.

Several publishers have said they were exchanging files with Google, which is a sign that a launch is coming soon.

"Because of the complexity of this project, we didn't want to come out with something that wasn't thorough," Dougall told The Wall Street Journal.

The new project is being billed as a "ready anywhere" model that is different from many competitors. 

Users will be able to buy books directly from Google or other online retailers and add them to an online library tied to a Google account.  They will be able to access their Google accounts on most devices with a Web browser, including personal computers, smartphones and tablets.

Amazon does things differently with its Kindle tablet because users can only purchase books from an Amazon store, although they can read them on dozens of different devices that run Kindle software.

According to Forrester Research, digital book sales are expected to more than triple to $966 million this year, from $301 million in 2009.

Google said that it is on a mission to reach all Internet users through a program in which websites refer their users to Google Editions.  For example, a blog about kayaking could direct Google Editions users to a kayaking book to purchase it. 

Booksellers could sell Google Editions e-books from their websites and share revenue with Google.

"Google is going to turn every Internet space that talks about a book into a place where you can buy that book," Dominique Raccah, publisher and owner of Sourcebooks Inc., an independent publisher based in Naperville, Ill, told the Journal. "The Google model is going to drive a lot of sales. We think they could get 20% of the e-book market very fast."

Brian Murray, CEO of News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers Inc., told The Wall Street Journal that Google could have a competitive advantage by not having its own e-reader device.

As the number of mobile reading devices proliferates, Google Editions will benefit "because their technology may be the least dependent on specific devices," he says.

James Crawford, an engineering director at Google, told the Journal that the majority of titles that currently are available in other e-bookstores would be available on Google Editions.

Some independent booksellers that are not able to afford opening their own e-bookstores believe that Google Editions could be their gateway to the digital market. 

The bookstores will install Google technology on their websites so they can sell e-books and receive a percentage of revenue.

"If I don't change with what is going on, I am going to be behind," Liz Murphy, owner of the Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson, Ohio, told the Journal. "People are getting e-books but they aren't getting them from me."


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