updated 08:55 am EDT, Mon June 1, 2009
Google e-book Sales
Google this weekend signaled its plans to offer paid e-books through its site. The approach would let users effectively "unlock" books and view them over the web; offline reading will rely on browser caching. While potentially less convenient than downloads, the approach is said by Google senior partnership director Tom Turvey to avoid creating a "silo" that limits access and should let smartphones as well as any other devices with sufficiently advanced browsers read the text.
In contrast to Amazon's Kindle store, Google would give publishers control over both the raw price as well as the final, buyer-facing price; Amazon typically controls this last price and has at times drawn complaints from publishers whose profit margins are cut sharply. The search engine giant nonetheless warns that it may force changes for "exorbitant" prices.
Google hopes to launch its paid e-book sales before the end of the year but hasn't said what kind of copy protection, if any, it would use.
The involvement of Google brings a rare large competitor against Amazon and also represents a movement away from proprietary standards, which often keep users dependent on particular hardware or software. Kindle buyers need to use either one of Amazon's e-book readers or the iPhone app. Google has already offered books but, until now, has been limited to public domain titles.