In addition to Sony’s and Amazon’s electronic bookstores (about 100,000 and 330,000 titles available, respectively), booksellers now have another huge option for getting their books into our hands: Google Editions, which will launch next year with between 400,000 and 600,000 titles.
Not necessarily a store or a device
Google Editions is built on top of Google’s enormous book digitizing project called Google Books, and is a platform that stores can take advantage of.
Google plans to share the sales with both publishers and the online bookstores. For books sold directly from its Web site, the search giant said at the book fair that it would give publishers 63 percent of the sales and keep 37 percent itself. For books sold through Amazon or other retailers, the publisher would get 45 percent, while the retailer would get almost 55 percent with a small share for Google.
Google has not (yet?) announced any plans to sell a reader device, primarily because they are making the purchased books available on any device with a browser. In theory, as long as you are logged into your Google account, you can read the same book on your laptop, mobile phone, the netbook you keep in the kitchen, etc.
The electronic ink difference
I’ve periodically tried to read entire books from a computer screen, and I’ve never been able to finish one. Daily computing tasks are different from reading paragraph after paragraph for hours. Conversely, devices like Amazon’s Kindle use an electronic ink that is much easier on the eyes and feels like reading off of paper.
In addition, computers like the iPhone use a kind of screen that drains the battery much faster than the Kindle. Hopefully, competition will be spurred forward with an electronic ink device that has support for Google Editions.
Saving money and peace of mind
My wife has had a 2nd-generation Kindle for about eight months, and loves it to pieces. I asked her the other day whether, because electronic versions of books are cheaper, she thinks she’s saved money on her book purchases, and she nearly guffawed. She figures she’s bought three times as many books as she otherwise would have. It even affords her the ability to read books that normally she’d be embarrassed to be seen with, like the “Twilight”
However, having your book purchases on one thin device also means that you’re not storing the ones you’ve already read somewhere in your house, on the off-chance that someday you might read it again. Many of you might be in the habit of donating your old books to a local library or Goodwill, and for that I salute you, but at our house we never seem to get around to it.
No matter what, it’s always better to have more than one store for a given product. I’m particularly pleased that Google is entering this market, because in addition to their motto, they actually do have a strong past record of not being evil.
By the way, did you know you can subscribe to Consumerism Commentary on the Kindle?
Photo credit: Robin Iversen Rönnlund
Reports: Google to launch online bookstore, Lance Whitney, CNET, Oct. 15 2009
Google to launch Google Editions platform, Peter Zschunke, Associated Press, Oct. 15 2009
Updated June 20, 2014 and originally published October 16, 2009.