Plans to start an ebook retail service have been in the pipeline at Google for a very long time now and it looks as though things are finally ready to roll.
This service will be called Google Editions, and it will allow users to read books on a wide variety of subjects online.
Google’s ebook service will differentiate itself from competitors Amazon and Apple merely on the basis that Google’s service will not require a proprietary device or software. This, of course, does not mean that Google will never consider developing its own ebook hardware.
Google’s plans regarding the release of Google Editions were announced by Chris Palma, Google’s manager for strategic partner development, during a publishing-industry panel held in New York last week.
While users will be able to buy books directly online, through Google’s Book Search service, they will also have the option of buying the books from retailers and independent shops that will be authorised to sell Google Editions through their web sites. The major chunk of the revenue in these cases will, of course, go to the partner. It is not yet certain whether the price of these books will be fixed by Google or by the retailer.
Given the limited popularity of Book Search, Google will have to work hard to publicise this new service. Google may also develop software to enable users to read the books on the iPhone or iPad in future, which will help boost usage numbers, but might lead to some interesting drama between them and Apple.
So far Google has scanned over 12 million books. Rumours claim that Editions will launch with over 4 million titles available for purchase.
Before Google is actually able to launch Google Editions, though, they will have to get the requisite licences from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Reactions from publishers have been largely positive, as more retail outlets and an open format means more books being sold. However, some authors and publishers feel that Google has been infringing on their copyrights ever since the launch of Book Search, and will continue to do so.