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Google's Browser-Based Plan for Ebook Sales

BEA ’09 may be remembered as the moment when Google formally entered the ebook market. From the New York Times:

Mr. [Tom] Turvey [director of strategic partnerships at Google] said Google’s program would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. “We don’t believe that having a silo or a proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” he said.

He said that Google would allow publishers to set retail prices. Amazon lets publishers set wholesale prices and then sets its own prices for consumers. In selling e-books at $9.99, Amazon takes a loss on each sale because publishers generally charge booksellers about half the list price of a hardcover — typically around $13 or $14.

In addition — and this is pure conjecture on my part — Google’s push into HTML 5 is a potential shot across the bow of e-reader manufacturers. Assuming it’s widely implemented, HTML 5 will further blur the line between standalone software and Web browsers/cloud-based content. Toss in Google’s Chrome browser and the Gears plugin and you can see how the dots (might) connect.

According to the Times, Google intends to launch its ebook project in 2009. This effort is separate from the pending Book Search

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Comments: 5

  1. Finally! Non-dedicated devices strike back. These are very interesting news: an existing open standard (say, HTML5+JS+Gears; say ePub “2”) for existing non-dedicated mobile devices (iPhone, Android, PDAs, etc.) and new ones (Apple’s Tablet) and even for future E-ink (less) dedicated devices with a JS-enabled browser and Gears support (iLiad?).

    But will publishers feel comfortable with this model? Will Gears take care of the DRM?

  2. I think this is great. If for no other reason than to challenge Amazon’s place in the e-book universe.

    I do have high hopes for Google to leverage Gears and in-app use of Google Shopping Cart to really make this work for publishers and consumers.

    Letting people read the books they love on a device they love (mobile/computer vs. having to buy a $250 e-reader) is a great way to go.

  3. Don’t forget about Google Wave that’s coming out later this year. It will help create dynamic content for books. (check my blog for more info)

  4. I think it is a very interessting development, and I am personally excited about it. However, publishers will generally most likeley not like it. They want more controle than that!

    Secondly, one of the positive things about an eReader is that it allows for the same kind of conscentration a book does. A computer or a smartphone allows for tons of distractions, which might be a bad thing in some cases, a good thing in other.

    But as I said, I love that Google are shaking the publishing tree a bit. We need it, even if not everything Google proposes should be taken as gospel either.

  5. “turvey”?

    “turvey”, for crying out loud?

    is this one of those unspeakably bad novels,
    where the character-names spell out omens?


    they say his first name is “tom”, which most of us
    would probably think is short for “thomas”, right?


    his first name is “topsey”.

    that’s right, “topsey turvey”.

    but you can call him “tom”…

    you heard it here first, folks, you heard it here first.