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Google Editions: The giant looms larger, starting this summer

May 6, 2010

Google LogoDespite some legal questions remaining to shape the final outcome, Google plans to open its own online bookstore over the summer. Details come from CNet’s Tom Krazit:

Google announced plans last year to offer public-domain books for free in the Epub format, and the report did not specify what format it will use for the first-run in-print books it sells through Google Editions.

A Google representative confirmed that the company plans to launch Google Editions in the middle of this year, but declined to be more specific on the timing.

One key difference between Google’s approach to digital-book sales and the approaches used by Amazon and Apple is that Google customers will not be able to download books sold through the store: they’ll be accessible exclusively through a Web browser. That has some advantages for Google, in that it side-steps messy DRM (digital rights management) questions and allows it to offer the service for any device, rather than having to negotiate deals.

However, it means Google will have to create a mobile version of Google Editions that can support offline reading. It might also change the pricing equation, given that customers wouldn’t actually have their own copy of the books they purchase. Google declined to comment on the pricing structure for Google Editions, although Google’s Dan Clancy told The New Yorker in April that it would let publishers set the prices for their books.

The Stranger‘s Paul Constant notes an important question about the Google model:

This is a weird approach. Part of the whole tablet/e-book explosion of the last year has been about making sure that books are available to their purchasers around the clock, and that the devices have the battery power to sustain long periods of reading. Internet access consumes a lot of power in mobile devices, and it’s still not available everywhere. Will people be willing to buy online-only e-books? And how much will they be willing to pay for them?

Meanwhile, Google’s settlement offer with various industry groups may also revive a large number of copyright-protected books that are out of print. Presiding Judge Denny Chin has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is expected to issue a ruling before his departure to a new bench.

Stay tuned. The times, they are a’changing, so there is plenty more drama to come. What will the publishing industry look like this time next year? Or five years on? As e-reader services evolve, will the battery warmth of a pocket reader ever come to properly replace the feel of a worn, comfortable book? Can you make an e-reader smell like an old, comfortable, favorite book? Would it be creepy if someone actually managed to pull that off?

-bd

(Paper or electronic, we’ve got agents, editors, and publishers all working to adapt their own lives to the new technology, and that means they should be on the forefront for their writers, too. If you’re ready to dive into the untold adventure of writing and publishing in the twenty-first century, it will help to have some smart and friendly people on your side. And there’s no better time or place to meet them than September 24-26 in Newport Beach, the Eighth Annual Los Angeles gathering of the Southern California Writers’ Conference. And just to prove how smart and friendly we are, we’ll knock $75 off your registration fee if you sign up before June 1, 2010. Hey, it’s better than breaking your kneecaps, right?)

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